Waterworks Wildlife Surveys

In 2020, we successfully crowdfunded for wildlife surveys of the Waterworks Meadow. We did this in order to reveal the biodiversity of the meadow, with the aim of convincing the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority to ‘rewild’ the area, to maximise its potential for wildlife.

Thank you again to everyone who donated.

At the end of last year, these surveys were completed and, after submitting all the findings to the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, GiGL and Waltham Forest Council, we would now like to share the key findings and recommendations with you.

Brown-banded Carder bee by Russell Miller

The Waterworks Meadow will be assessed for inclusion on the list of Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) by Waltham Forest Council in the coming year. We are still awaiting the outcomes of the Lee Valley Regional Park’s own surveys and its assessment of the area.

Huge appreciation to our surveyors – Annie Chipchase, Alison Fure, Ian Phillips, Rob Sheldon and Russell Miller.

Here are some very brief highlights – you can download the full survey collation here.

Key findings

  • Six bat species were recorded during the surveys. Common (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), Soprano (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) and Nathusius’ (Pipistrellus nathusi) Pipistrelle Bats, as well as the occasional commuting Noctule Bat (Nyctalus noctula) and one Serotine (Eptesicus serotinus) commuting pass. There was a Daubenton’s Bat (Myotis daubentoni) commuting at the culvert during the first survey and two Daubenton’s foraging at the Waterworks nature reserve lake.
  • Two species of amphibian (Common Toad Bufo bufo and Smooth Newt Lissotriton vulgaris) and one species of reptile (Grass Snake Natrix helvetica) were recorded, including young individuals of Smooth Newt. Common Toad and Grass Snake are UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) species.
  • Six species of terrestrial mammal were also recorded including Red Fox Vulpes vulpes, Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis and Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus.
  • Small mammals recorded during surveys of the Waterworks Meadow included Common Shrew, Short-tailed Vole, Wood Mouse and Muntjac Deer.
  • The wide range of families and species suggests that the Waterworks Meadows provides an important habitat for a diverse assemblage of invertebrates. Twenty bee species were recorded confirming the diversity and abundance of nectar and pollen resources available on site. Possibly the most important species recorded was the Brown-banded Carder bee Bombus humilis which is a priority species for England.
  • Within the Waterworks Meadows the mosaic of scattered trees, flower-rich grassland and proximity to water provide larval and adult habitat for a wide diversity of species.
  • Overall, a total of 166 plant species were recorded across the site with the Central and Eastern Grassland areas being the most diverse with 109 and 92 species respectively.
  • The area as a whole is relatively diverse from a botanical perspective with a good mixture of herbaceous plants, trees and shrubs.
  • A total of 69 bird species were recorded across the 2 sites (including flyovers), with 53 species in the Meadows and 59 species in the Waterworks Nature Reserve.
  • There were 30 species that are classified as Birds of Conservation Concern according to the latest review of bird populations in the UK, of these 7 are red-list species and 21 are amber-listed.
  • Of the red-listed species, three singing male Greenfinch Carduelis chloris were recorded on the Meadows, and singing males were also recorded for amber-listed Whitethroat Sylvia communis, Wren Troglodytes troglodytes, Song Thrush Turdus philomelos and Dunnock Prunella modularis. Song Thrush was confirmed breeding in both the Meadows and the Reserve.
  • The regular presence of a Kingfisher Alcedo atthis along the River Lea, including during the nesting season, suggests breeding nearby (and this has been witnessed and recorded by local birdwatchers this season).

Key recommendations

  • The Meadows is a relatively small area rich in wildlife and habitats that provides connectivity to other neighbouring areas such as the Waterworks Reserve and Hackney Marshes. Providing such connectivity within fragmented urban landscapes is an essential way of helping mitigate the future effects of climate change.
  • Future management of the Meadows should take into account the cumulative impact of other developments within the Lee Valley Park that have seen a reduction in green space and important wildlife habitat.
  • Sites rich in biodiversity, such as the Meadows, should be prioritised for habitat management and enhancement rather than activities such as large mass-participation events that will damage habitats and associated biodiversity.
  • Introduce low-level cattle grazing to the Meadows to help diversify vegetation structure and provide niches for seed germination etc.  Such management will be beneficial for a wide range of invertebrates that will have positive impacts higher up the food chain for a range of taxa including bats and birds.
  • Work with neighbouring landowners and businesses to mitigate the effects of light pollution on foraging and roosting bat species.
  • Undertake habitat improvements to maximise ecological niches for the widest possible range of species. Features such as log piles, excavation of small ponds and targeted scrub planting will provide enhancements for many of the species currently recorded as well as offer opportunities for colonisation from neighbouring areas and habitats.
  • Additional surveys should be undertaken to further improve knowledge of the biodiversity of the Meadows and inform ongoing management.
  • The Waterworks Centre could be utilised as a focal point for public engagement about the wildlife in the surrounding area. Its integrated use as a visitor centre, managed holistically alongside the Meadow and Reserve, could be most helpfully modelled on the successful Fishers Green Wildlife Discovery Centre.
  • No building on, or adjacent to, the Waterworks area.

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