Beware of the Ravenscourt Park terrapins

The Friends of Ravenscourt Park report that someone has unfortunately released terrapins into the lake at Ravenscourt Park. If they are allowed to grow they can bite off a child’s finger – as well as biting off the legs of ducks and harming other wildlife.

The Parks Manager tells me:

“Parks Police, as promised at the friends’ AGM made contact with the Barnes Wetland Centre who in turn advised that terrapins are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.  This means if we do manage to catch it we cannot kill it but will need to arrange for it to be taken to a suitable centre.  A bigger job is going to be catching a small animal in a large pond.  Terrapins are not easy to catch so this will need to be an ongoing aim.”

I’m afraid that really isn’t good enough, is it?

There was the same problem in Hampstead Heath’s bird sanctuary pond and other ponds on the Heath a few years ago. They have managed to set traps and catch them. It seems it wasn’t always easy – “the Steve McQueen of terrapins” kept tearing away at the chicken wire. But the City of London Corporation (which owns and manages the Heath) persisted. Delay just makes the problem worse.

 

Ravenscourt Park tennis courts to be upgraded

The tennis clubs in Ravenscourt Park are being upgraded with the improvements being funded by the Lawn Tennis Association in a deal between Queen’s Club and Hammersmith and Fulham Council

The Council’s Parks Manager tells me:

“I can confirm that the LTA will be funding the improvements in Ravenscourt Park.  The works will consist of a new surface, and new exterior fencing and access gate.  The proposed improvements are still to be tendered but we’d anticipate the works commencing in early 2018 and being completed in time for the summer rush of tennis players.  In terms of priority booking, this is only applicable to the courts at the Virgin Active centre in Normand Park.  The link to Queens Club for Ravenscourt Park, is that in working with the LTA at the Virgin Active centre, this allowed us to bring in additional funding from the LTA to deliver the proposed improvements at Ravenscourt Park.”

Good news.

Where are the wood chips?

The Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Ravenscourt Park will take place at 7pm on Tuesday 26 September 2017, in the Lower Hall at Holy Innocents church, Paddenswick Road. New members are welcome – you can join here.

My biggest concern is drainage.

At last year’s AGM there was a discussion about muddy paths. A council officer “undertook to investigate whether wood chipping would alleviate the problem, but the chipping would need to be contained.”

In March the Parks Manager told me wood chips would be a “very short term” solution.  That would be a reasonable objection if the proper drainage work was being done. But instead the problem is just allowed to continue. The wood chips work effectively on Wimbledon Common – and they would surely be better than nothing.

I’m now told that the Council is “waiting for a quote to come back” from a contractor for wood chips for the path.

It is quite unacceptable that years go by without these problems being dealt with.

Ring-necked parakeets: Is it time to act?

A resident emailed me recently to say:

“Hi Harry,

I went for a walk in Ravenscourt Park the other day and there were literally hundreds of these green parakeets flying between the trees.

It was quite a sight.

But I wondered if the council has any plans to eradicate them?

They are really bad for indigenous flora and fauna and you can see all the bark they are stripping off the trees.

I would be grateful if you could have a look into it.”

The Council’s Parks Manager responds:

“Dear Councillor Phibbs,

Thank you for your email.

I’ve looked for the ring-tailed parakeet as referenced in the article but can only find information on the ring-necked parakeet in the UK; looking at the Latin name (Psittacula krameri) I think they are one of the same.  Ring-neck parakeets are an ever growing sight in our parks and open spaces and having done some research it appears they are recognised at the UK’s only naturalised parrot.  You can find more information here.

Despite being an introduced species they are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1984 so if the council were to start controlling them (which it has no plans to do) a special licence would be required; these however do seem to be aimed at more where birds are damaging crops, etc.  Additionally, the council acting in isolation would have little effect as another flock of parakeets will simply move into the area so any control of this bird (and given its protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1984 this seems extremely unlikely) would need be done at a strategic/regional level.”

Of course they are beautiful. But then so are the native birds and the trees which are threatened. If nothing is done won’t the problem get out of hand?

Council refusing to keep the Ravenscourt Park paddling pool open

Last year I called for the Council to keep the paddling pool in Ravenscourt Park open into September.

This would be a very modest cost for the amount of pleasure it gives to residents. In good weather the pool is full of young children happily splashing and laughing. Of course the weather in September is unreliable – but then it is the rest of time too. On average September is warmer in London than June.

But this year the pool will close on September 10th.

I am also campaigning for the lavatories next to the paddling pool to be kept open longer. At present they close at 5pm.  In practice they are sometimes closed earlier. The Council says they are “quite secluded and likely to suffer from anti-social behaviour and/or vandalism.” That is an argument for keep them closed the whole time. Pretty feeble.

Caroline ffiske: Anti-social behaviour in St Paul’s Open Space is keeping residents awake at night

Cllr Caroline ffiske writes:

Residents who live near St Paul’s Open Space in Avonmore are experiencing serious problems with anti-social behaviour in the park, late at night.

The previous Conservative administration locked the park at night.  However, when the Council changed hands: “Councillors took the decision not to continue to lock – about three years ago.

What is more, an officer tells me:

“The Parks Police continue to lock eleven parks although this is being reduced to eight in the near future.”  

I have asked the Council to reverse the decision to leave the St Pauls Open Space open at night.  While it may be lovely in theory, it is not right that Hammersmith residents face repeated disturbance of their sleep and peace.

“The disturbance was so bad last night that I telephoned the Parks Police at 10.30 pm.  … I was able to speak to a lady, who said she would send somebody round.  They did.  I saw torches and the park was cleared.  Peace prevailed – for about 45 minutes, after which the offenders returned and continued their shouting and laughing until well into the early hours.”

 

Well done to the Parks Police for clearing the Park.  However their service finishes at 11pm at which point residents are advised to call 101.   But, I’m hearing from more and more residents that they never get through on this number, or do not get through quickly enough to solve an immediate problem.  You also have to ask whether, with the police time involved, it would actually be more resource-efficient to lock the park at night.  A win-win as residents would get some sleep.

Please email me at carolineffiske@gmail.com with any comments.