Thursday, 27 February 2014

Sweet Skylarks and eyesore School buildings at Lake Farm CP

I've been avoiding going to Lake Farm for the last few weeks. Now that the new school building is well under way, the park depresses me every time I visit. However I have a couple of friends who regularly walk their dog over there, and one of them often texts me photos of the complete mess Lake Farm is now in. She also advised me that other dog walkers are hearing rumours that what remains of Lake Farm has already been ear-marked for more school buildings in the future.
I really hope this isn't true, and would like an honest answer to that rumour. So todays blog will not only be posted as usual on my Facebook page, but will also be sent to John McDonnell, Eric Pickles, Boris Johnson, Ray Puddifoot and the local Gazette. Only John McDonnell has shown any concern to what happens to Lake Farm, so I hope between all of them, we get some honest answers.
The front of the site along Botwell Lane looks beautiful with all the crocuses in flower, and the site management team have been very thoughtful in painting the boundary fence to match the flowers. It looks like the crocus patch will be saved from being dug up, and that is a good thing as local school children planted those bulbs in 2000.
The 'Eden' Skylark statue is behind the purple fence. You can view the building works behind the fence, through 'port holes' all along it. It looks like the Skylark statue will also be staying as its been fenced off by waist high metal mesh panels. Well the new schools nicking our land, so why not steal our park symbol too !!!!
The rest of the building site is just that, an eyesore of a building site. I was talking to someone from outside the area this morning, who genuinely thought the council was building a warehouse.
When the original plans were submitted, the path that crosses from one side of the park to the other (from the Navnat fields to Botwell Common Road) was the boundary line. The school was to be built to the right of the path (from the Navnat end) and everything to the left of the path was to stay as Lake Farm. Late last year the plans were changed to accommodate a larger car park (funny how those new plans got pushed through the Planning Committee in double quick time), so the path way has now been built over, and a new path way lain to go around the new school site. That area has been home to several pairs of Skylark and Meadow Pipits over the last ten years that I've been visiting Lake Farm, so already the bird life is being pushed back.
The original path starts to bend to the right, and used to go straight across. Now its diverted sharply to the left and around the fencing that you can see in the top left of this photo.
To add insult to injury, the entrance that myself and a lot of others use is on Botwell Lane near the junction of Printing House Lane. That's now closed off, despite us being assured by the Council it would remain open for access to the park. My photo below is not clear, but the old entrance is the green gate on the left.
And from the path by the Navnat field, the path is closed off with a very amusing sign up......
Todays date is the 27th February !!!

I was told by one of the workers, that the new path had been delayed due to the recent heavy rain which had made the area waterlogged. Funny how the waterlogging didn't affect the rest of the building works, only that particular path way. It seems to me that the Council doesnt really care about the people who use the park for walking their dogs, exercising, watching wildlife or even using it as a cut through to get from Dawley Road to Hayes Town. All that matters is getting the school up and running for the opening this Autumn. Sod us locals. Our opinions have never been taken into consideration.
The sign below is currently up outside WH Smith in the town. How ironic when Lake Farm was awarded a Green Flag five times since 2006. Now its being ripped up and built on, and the Green Flag which used to be up on a pole by the Skylark statue, has disappeared.
Wonder when they will change the sign to read '23' ?
Something else that got my back up today was the complete destruction in the copse by the canal. Trees, shrubs and bushes haven't been pruned, they've been hacked down. There was nothing wrong with the shrubbery in that area, so don't fix something that isn't broken !!
This used to be a lovely little path through the copse,
 now nearly all of the trees and shrubs on the right have been hacked down.
I didn't only go to Lake Farm today to moan about the new school and how the park is being ruined.
 I also came to see what birds are around. I've been coming here now for over ten years, and generally know the best areas to find any birds, especially the resident all year stayers.
To be honest when I started this blog back in January 2013, Lake Farm was my 'patch' and my favourite place to visit, now days you are more likely to find me at Cranford Park, but in Peter Naylors memory I promised to keep visiting the Lake Farm site.
Before I go into what I did see today, here are some facts about what birds have been faithfully recorded as being seen at LF.
In January 2010, Peter Naylor reported seeing 17 Meadow Pipits in one day. In the same month in 2013, I recorded seeing eight Meadow Pipits. Today I saw two.
In February 2010, Peter reported seeing six Reed Buntings. In February 2013 I recorded an all time high of 22 Reed Buntings. Today I didn't see any.
In February 2010, Peter reported seeing 25 House Sparrows. In February 2013 I recorded seeing 28 House Sparrows. Today I saw five.
In February 2010, Peter reported seeing two Stonechats. In February 2013 I recorded seeing three Stonechats. Today I saw none, and that is the first time in over ten years that Stonechats have not over-wintered at Lake Farm.
So are the new school building works affecting the birds. Yup !
The only consistent record appears to be the Skylarks. In February 2010, Peter reported three. In February 2013 I also recorded three. Today I saw four (more about them later). In July and August there can be as many as twenty Skylarks on the site, but this year we will have to wait and see. As mentioned earlier, the building site has already encroached on to their nesting ground, and if the birds are pushed further up the park there could be quite a few territorial disputes.
So back to the birds seen today.......
On the BMX tracks I found the Linnets, a guaranteed place to see them.......if you can get near enough without spooking them off.
A Kestrel flew over the park. There used to be a pair that would regularly perch on the posts, but they disappeared a few years ago. Hopefully a new pair will take up resident.
In the copse by the canal the remaining shrubs and trees were alive with Blue Tits, Robins, Great Tits, Blackbirds, Magpies, Woodpigeons and Long-tailed Tits. I managed to grab one photo of a LTT before it darted behind the branch.
But back to the Skylarks. This is probably the best time of year to see them. The grass is short enough to see them on the ground, and when they're flushed they fly up high and almost hover while singing. In a few weeks the grass will be longer and they will not be easy to spot. I've been watching these little lovelies for many years, and one thing they do tend to do is feed on the short mown grass paths that criss cross the park. If you do see one on a path, and want to get a better view, walk towards it very quietly and slowly and stop every now and then before continuing to walk towards it. You'll never get closer than ten feet but at least you'll be able to see the beautiful markings and crest of a bird that was once a symbol of Lake Farm Country Park, before it becomes a so-called symbol of the new Lake Farm School.
Peek-a-boo. Skylark hiding in the grass
Skylark. Note the wonderful crest.
Skylark on one of the short mown grass paths.
All Skylarks have a crest, but not all of them show it at this time of year.
Another Skylark hiding in the grass.
Skylark taking off.


  1. Hi Wendy, I have been following your blog for while now and find your comments very well written and worth reading and enjoy seeing the photos. Being relatively local (I'm based in Norwood Green) and same interest in wildlife and photography I believe we visit very much the same places so I have vested interest in your reports. This latest one has come as quite a shock as I wasn't aware that the council were doing such destructive work to our countryside sol locally and I just hope that your comments do not fall on death ears in the council offices. Just a thought, have you considered sending this to the RSPB as well to see if they could provide some leverage on the council ? One day I expect our paths will cross in our pursuits so keep up the good work with this most interesting of blogs. Some of my photos are on my flickr account if your would like to take a look and pass coment .

  2. Hi Wendy, I grew up in Lime Grove from 77-87 which is parallel to Botwell common Road. I was bird watching mad and I always saw Skylarks there, you used to see and hear them from our garden way up high. When the cornfield was there which is now the meadow was where you used to see them. There was never more than 2 or 3. I don't like the school being there but hopefully when all the trees have grown a bit I might look a lot better. I always remember in the early eighties that the field got over run by travellers and they used to be there for weeks and leaving a mess behind. The council decided to put up a barrier all around it that you can still see now in the hedge and temporarily there was ditches. It did the trick.

    There was Japanese knotweed in the dividing hedgerow that was always full of song thrush nests. I remember seeing reed buntings, waxwings, siskins in our garden. Once there was a group of choughs flying overhead.

    We moved near to central avenue in 87 and I always see Skylarks over the field that is now McDonalds and Sainsbury. Last summer I saw one hovering over Coldharbour Lane which probably drifted from Minet country park. It would be nice to know if these 2 populations meet eachother and are not isolated.

    I will be looking out more this year and keeping note.
    Keep up the good work and I will checking your blog and keep you posted of my findings.


  3. Hi Wendy
    I hope you get this comment ok as I know this entry is a couple of years old now!
    I'm writing a history book on Hayes and would love to use your Skylark Sculpture on a piece regarding Lake Farm. The book is already up for pre-order and is and being published on 15th December. I can forward you my email address and give you more details if necessary.
    Kind regards

    1. Hi Emma. I have no way of contacting you directly so I can only hope you check back on this blog post and see my reply. My email address is
      I look forward to hearing from you.