Horsenden nature watch

Horsenden Hill provides a habitat for numerous species of birds, small mammals and invertebrates. The rich mix of ancient and newer woodlands, wildflower meadows, grasslands, hedgerows, wetlands and ponds make it a fascinating place to explore the natural world and learn more about it.

Among the wide range you will find here, some species, such as the wild service tree and dyer’s greenweed are rare in the context of an inner-city borough of London.

Here is a small selection to get started on your journey to discover the wonders of Horsenden Hill.  There will be something different to see each time you visit, so be sure to record what you see and post photos on our Facebook group, especially if you want help identifying a species. Take a notebook, make drawings, take photos and audio clips and enjoy learning about nature.

Horsenden Wood is a remnant of ancient woodland with a history of at least 400 years of tree cover.  There are around 50 tree species on the Hill, mainly English or pedunculate oak and hornbeam. The stand-out tree is wild service tree. This rare, slow growing tree is an ancient woodland indicator. Horsenden has three mature specimens and many young saplings.

See how many types of tree you can spot.  Collect fallen leaves to help identify what you find.

The plant dyer’s greenweed is abundant on Horsenden Hill but rare elsewhere in London.

It was used in days of old in the fabric dyeing industry, producing a yellow dye. It was sometimes mixed with Woad (blue) to make green.  

The leaves of dyer’s greenweed are dark green, small and narrow. Its flowers are bright yellow appear from June to August. They are clustered together on upright, rounded stems; they are similar in appearance to those of other pea-family members.
It is an important food plant for moths and other insects.
The meadows of Horsenden were designated London’s Coronation meadows in 2013 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11.  

Seed from Horsenden’s meadows has been used to start wildflower meadows in other parts of London.  Throughout the year different species will be blooming, see how many different types of wildflower you can find.  
Some 29 species of butterfly, some extremely rare, and hundreds of moth species have been identified at Horsenden.
Among the butterflies two are uncommon, white letter hairstreak and brown hairstreak.  
Marbled whites are not rare, but Horsenden is home to thousands and is probably one of the best sites for this species in West London.   
Many of the ponds on Horsenden hold frogs and toads as well as water insects and dragon and damsel flies.   The rarest amphibian is the great crested newt like the one in the photo. This newt is fully protected in law and a licence is required to search for and handle them, so please don’t touch or take any.  

Bird life is varied and vibrant on Horsenden Hill. Apex predators such as sparrowhawk and kestrel are regular and red kite, buzzard and peregrine falcon and both little and tawny owls use Horsenden as their hunting ground.

Look at the treetops to spot birds of prey as they perch and survey their surroundings.

The colourful but elusive kingfisher is sometimes seen along the canal.