Located to the northeast of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham is Wormwood Scrubs. It is the biggest open space within Hammersmith and Fulham at 200 acres (80 hectares). It is also one of the largest spaces of common land within London.
The Wormwood Scrubs Act of 1879 was the first to declare this place as a public open space. The site has a Local Nature Reserve as well as some Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation.
Wormwood Scrubs has a variety of habitats including woodland, grassland and scrub. Among large numbers of flora and fauna here are common lizards, 20 species of butterfly, 100 bird species and around 250 native species of plant.
In terms of tree cover in Wormwood Scrubs, there are about 18 hectares. Long grass meadow occupies 22 hectares.
As well as flora and fauna, Wormwood Scrubs has lots of leisure facilities including walking routes, cycling route, play areas, sports pitches and a model aircraft runway.
Wormwood Scrubs History
At the beginning of the 1800s, the whole area was common land and open fields. In the year 1812, an area 77 hectares in size was leased from the Manor of Fulham to the war office for the exercise of cavalry horses. This area was known as Wormwood Scrubs.
In 1879, The Wormwood Scrubs Act was passed in parliament. The idea behind the Act was for the land to be used as a place for the military to exercise. The Act meant that the military was able to stop civilians using the Scrubs during their training but otherwise, they were free to use the space.
Facilities and Events in Wormwood Scrubs
It is a place that everyone can enjoy! There are two play areas (one for under 5s and one for children aged 5 to 13), 9 full-size football pitches, 7 junior-size football pitches, a rugby and lacrosse pitch, 2 Gaelic football pitches, seasonal baseball diamonds, 2 outdoor gyms and the Linford Christie Outdoor Sports Centre. This has Astroturf pitches, a grass centre pitch, an athletics track, a netball court, an archery area, a community room and changing facilities.
Home to Wormwood Scrubs is the Kensington Dragons Football Club senior team, PHC Chiswick Hockey Club and Thames Valley Harriers Athletics Club.
In terms of events, Wormwood Scrubs hosts many every year. Weekly is the 5k Parkrun but the Scrubs also plays host to the Tackle Africa Football Tournament, the London Junior Baseball League, Race for Life Hammersmith and the British Athletic League Meetings. Many schools also use the facilities for their sports days.
Habitats in Wormwood Scrubs
Much of Wormwood Scrubs is grassland and much of this is designated and marked as playing fields.
The western side of the park is home to the children’s play areas and lots of cut grass. As well as this, there is a large area of brambles and rough grasslands that are popular with small birds like finches, thrushes and tits. There are notable birds here too like the Winchat and Grasshopper Warbler.
The edge of the park has many mature trees as well as woodland that is less mature towards the north. Along the northern and western margins are extensive scrubland that has some semi-mature trees. These include hawthorn, blackthorn, grey poplar, goat willow, crack willow, white willow, elder and sycamore.
Along the periphery of the grassland in the centre are many mature trees including oak, turkey oak, acer, sycamore, horse chestnut, ash, hybrid black poplar, lime, London plane and false acacia.
Recent years have seen a substantial amount of shrub and tree planting towards to northern and western edges of Wormwood Scrubs. This has developed into young secondary broadleaved woodland.
Fauna in Wormwood Scrubs
There are around 100 species of bird seen in Wormwood Scrubs. The scrub areas provide the perfect nesting habitat. Birds seen nesting recently include 4 warbler species: Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Also seen to breed in the park are Meadow Pipit.
Migrating birds often stop off at Wormwood Scrubs too. These include Cuckoo, Turtle Dove, Nightingale, Common Redstart and even Quail and Honey Buzzard. Also, in the non-breeding season, Wormwood Scrubs is the roosting place for around 5000 rose-ringed parakeets!
There are many mammals, reptiles and amphibians that make Wormwood Scrubs their home. Seen in the park are grey squirrels, hedgehogs, red foxes and field voles. There have also been sightings of a rabbit, weasels and badgers. There are two bat species here, the common Pipistrelle and the Soprano Pipistrelle. Chat’s Paddock is also home to Common Lizard, Slow Worm, Common Toad and Common Frog.
In terms of invertebrates, you will see around 20 butterfly species including Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, Large Skipper, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood and Gatekeeper. There are also many species of bumblebee as well as Stag beetles.
Site Maintenance and Management for Trees and Shrubs
Wormwood Scrubs does have Japanese Knotweed to the north-east of the park, which is problematic. The tree survey in 2008 also showed that there was much need for remedial work in terms of the existing trees and tree management.
In 2010, the parks service bought tree management software called Ezytreev. This has meant that trees in the park can be monitored really easily. Data can be collected and managed and tree maintenance can be booked accordingly and easily with its built-in mapping system.
All trees are inspected every three years in Wormwood Scrubs. Tree pruning occurs regularly when it is needed.
One of the most recent aims has been to increase the light through the main tree canopy in order to benefit plant diversity. Tree thinning has been planned and younger trees have been planted further apart than during previous tree planting.
Should you require tree surgery in west London, or any service such as felling or pruning in the area, don’t hesitate to contact GraftinGardeners.
Removing Japanese knotweed
During the summer of 2018, large-scale removal of Japanese knotweed began on Lester’s Embankment. This was a success and there was very little damage to the vegetation surrounding the area.
This removal was supervised by the London Wildlife Trust so that the disturbance of Wormwood Scrubs’ nesting bird population was kept to an absolute minimum. The area was treated with herbicide and there were also fruit and nut trees planted.
Conservation in the park
There has been some controversy surrounding the conservation work carried out by Groundwork London in Wormwood Scrubs. Their aim is to link each area of Local Nature Reserve by low hedges and trees as a wildlife corridor.
Groundwork London claims that this will benefit the biodiversity here and that it will develop improved foraging routes for the bats. Work to improve the habitats of the common lizard has also begun to take place. Scrub has been removed so that basking areas are available.
All of this work has meant tree planting has taken place on a large scale, which many fear might jeopardise how open Wormwood Scrubs is in terms of space.
Article was written by Louise W.