Kingston's biodiversity projects
Fishponds Park pond restoration
Fishponds Park is a much loved and well used park, located within the Surbiton Neighbourhood. The park supports an array of habitats including a hay meadow, woodlands and a community orchard - one of the focal features of the park is the wetland system, which in part gives the park its name
The park also has a thriving friends groups, made up of over 200 motivated residents from the surrounding community, who regularly undertake volunteer activities and see the restoration of the ponds to be the greatest priority for the park.
Funding has been secured to undertake this restoration work, which will take place between November 2023 - February 2024. This project will bring a number of improvements, including silt reduction, protecting the banks of the ponds, planting, improved habitat and species biodiversity, and improved accessibility and safety for the community.
Part of the restoration will include some tree works to increase the light reaching the pond and reduce the amount of leaves that fall into the ponds. Excessive leaf fall can cause algae blooms which can lead to dead-zones in the water, reducing the biodiversity value of the ponds.
The alarming decline of wildflower meadows in the UK has resulted in significant negative consequences for pollinator populations.
In response to this ecological emergency, Kingston Council has taken action by launching a pioneering pilot project which aims to implement a new approach to cutting roadside grass verges, creating a more favourable environment for wildflowers to flourish.
Our adopted strategy employs a "cut and collect" methodology, whereby vegetation is cut and then removed to an off-site location for composting during early spring and autumn. This long-term approach helps reduce nitrate levels in the soil, creating an ideal habitat for the wildflowers present in the seedbank to grow without being overpowered by coarse grasses.
To ensure the success of this conservation intervention, we have partnered with Kingston University to conduct monitoring and assessment. This evaluation covers not only its impact on species diversity but also the broader benefits it provides, such as enhanced carbon storage within the soil.
In response to the ecological emergency, Kingston Council has embraced the innovative 'BioBeds' approach, aimed at fostering a pollinator-friendly environment through strategically planting shrubs within raised beds in public spaces. Our goal is to provide a consistent nectar source for various pollinating insects from Spring to Autumn while also catering to the needs of local butterfly species by including specific 'Larval Host Plants' in the design.
The 'BioBeds' methodology revolves around three fundamental parameters:
- Diverse Pollinator-Friendly Planting: We adhere to the guidelines set by the Royal Horticultural Society, incorporating a wide range of plant species that serve as a continuous nectar source throughout the flowering period, spanning from Spring to Autumn.
- Supporting Butterfly and Moth Populations: To aid the local butterfly and moth populations, we include 'Larval Host Plants' that cater to the specific caterpillar food requirements of various butterfly species. By doing so, we strive to create an environment that encourages their growth and sustenance.
- Resilient and Low-Maintenance Planting: Our planting strategy focuses on hardy and adaptable vegetation, ensuring the raised beds thrive in favourable conditions, even amidst the challenges posed by a warming climate. Low maintenance requirements allow us to sustain the BioBeds effectively and efficiently.
By implementing the 'BioBeds' approach, we are taking concrete steps towards addressing the ecological crisis and promoting biodiversity within our borough. This initiative not only benefits pollinators and local butterfly species but also contributes to a more resilient and sustainable urban landscape.
Wildlife cameras - hedgehogs
Since 2021, we have been collaborating with the esteemed London Hogwatch Team at the Institute of Zoology, which is part of the Zoological Society of London, to conduct an insightful wildlife conservation initiative. Our primary goal is to deploy wildlife cameras throughout the borough, focusing on Local nature reserves, parks, and even private gardens, to gain valuable insights into the local hedgehog population.
Research indicates that suburban landscapes play a crucial role in the survival of hedgehogs, making it even more vital for us, as residents of Kingston, to support and protect these fascinating creatures. By actively participating in this research, we will directly contribute to the borough’s Hedgehog Species Action Plan.
Moreover, our efforts have yielded unexpected rewards, as our wildlife cameras have captured a diverse range of other species living in our borough. This valuable data provides us with a deeper understanding of how wildlife utilises our environment, enabling us to make more informed decisions to safeguard biodiversity.
Here are some straightforward steps that you, as a responsible community member, can take to help hedgehogs and other wildlife flourish locally:
- Enhance Hedgehog Movements: If you're fortunate enough to have a garden, create a 15 cm hole in your fence to facilitate hedgehogs' movement in and out. A male hedgehog can travel over a mile in just one night, so enabling seamless movement across landscapes is critical for their survival.
- Nurture Native Hedgerows: Establish a native hedgerow in your garden, offering both shelter and nourishment not only to hedgehogs but also to other animals like birds and invertebrates.
- Cultivate a Wilder Area: Designate a wilder section in your garden with longer grass and log piles. This natural habitat will provide essential food and cover for hedgehogs, encouraging their presence.
- Provide Water: On warm summer evenings, consider placing a bowl of water in your garden to quench the thirst of visiting hedgehogs and other wildlife. Even better could you have a small wildlife pond which will also support amazing creatures such as frogs, toads and dragonflies.
- Install a Hedgehog Box: Taking it a step further, set up a hedgehog box in your garden. This cosy shelter may encourage hedgehogs to hibernate on your property, further supporting their well-being.
You can find out more about London Hogwatch on their website and our London Hogwatch Reports.
Tolworth Court Farm - Wild Tolworth Project
Tolworth Court Farm has the potential to become a pioneering nature reserve. It dates back to the Domesday Book in 1086, and its ancient hedgerows support a locally important population of brown hairstreak butterflies, along with an array of other species.
Our vision is to create a dynamic, mixed-mosaic nature reserve that fosters diverse wildlife. Partnering with Citizen Zoo and The Community Brain, we received funding from the Greater London Authority to kickstart rewilding efforts in 2022. Our long term goal is to showcase how this space can support rich biodiversity, ecosystem services, and engage the local community.
So far we have conducted three workstreams:
- Comprehensive Ecological Surveying: Coordinated by Citizen Zoo, we conducted extensive ecological surveys with experts, identifying various invertebrates, plants, birds, and mammals. We ran Field Recorders Days which allowed the public to participate in surveying and learn about the reserve's species.
- Feasibility Assessment: The council and Citizen Zoo worked with conservation experts to explore measures like wetland creation and conservation grazing within the site's boundaries, updating the existing management plan.
- Community Engagement and Consultation: The Community Brain involved local people in the project through various activities, seeking their ideas and input to shape the future of Tolworth Court Farm.
This project aims to create a pioneering nature reserve that celebrates both wildlife and cultural heritage while reconnecting people with the natural world in an urban landscape.
You can find out more information on Citizen’s Zoo website.