How a wasteland became a wonderland

wolf fields crowd - 1From wasteland to wonderland, rubbish dump to nature reserve, drug den to garden of delight – that’s the story of Wolf Fields.

Wolf Fields is a three-acre site in Southall, West London. At one time it was used as a brick works. It’s thought that some of the bricks made there, now form part of the outer wall of Buckingham Palace.

Since then the site had fallen into disrepair and become a neglected wasteland used only for rubbish dumping, drug taking and substance abuse. A Rocha UK acquired the site in 2012. Work started in 2013.

COMMUNITY ALLOTMENT

Initially, the site was cleared of 54 tonnes of rubbish – including 500 glass bottles, 12 mattresses, furniture, animal remains and asbestos. With the rubbish taken away, new paths were laid to improve access across the site.

Nest boxes and a bird feeding station were some of the first improvements to attract wildlife. These additions have already had a noticeable impact on the site’s species diversity. In 2016 there have been records of blue tit, marsh tit, great tit, wren, robin – and even a red kite!

Currently a project is runniWF work partyng to set up a video link between the local primary school and the camera in one of the nest boxes where blue tits are thought to be nesting this year.

A central part of the Wolf Fields project is the community allotment. Fully organic and lovingly maintained by local community members, the facility produces food all year round. Last year we grew and harvested everything from strawberries to pumpkins.

The allotment is maintained by committed members of the Wolf Fields Friend’s Group, who volunteer at the project on a weekly basis. We have also welcomed help from local churches. Youth volunteering groups like Challenge Network have been involved in the maintenance of the site, path clearing, litter-picking and planting vegetables in the allotment.

SENSORY GARDEN

Following a series of assemblies in four local primary schools, a competition was held in 2014 – open to 1,000 children – to design the sensory garden. A winner from each school was selected by A Rocha UK before forwarding an overall winner to a volunteer landscaper from the Eden Project.

PNG CopyThe seven-year-old winner from Norwood Green Infant and Nursery School came up with a simple five-petal flower celebrating each of the senses. Texture boxes were added by the landscaper.

The sensory garden has now been built with a central dome feature. Phase one planting has taken place with the help of the local community working party. Ealing Blind Association are already contributing ideas about climber plant choices for the central dome – with vibrant smell a priority.

We have experienced much generosity from many people and organisations. In particular, help has come from Chelsea Flower Show gold award winners Crocus Nurseries of Windlesham. They provided the dome and materials for the texture boxes. Eden Project landscaper Cat Cutler did the finalisation of the design.

Gratitude is also expressed for an anonymous philanthropist who funded the building of the sensory garden – along with Blakedown Landscapes SE Ltd, Chobham, who built the garden at cost price, Garfield Weston for the plants and Wyevale Garden Centre who provided peat-free compost for the first community plant.

wolf fields rejoice 2POLLINATION PROJECT

The Pollination Project was funded by the Veolia Environmental Trust. This consisted of the establishment of an apiary and a community orchard. Garfield Weston supplied the information board and 2nd Uxbridge St Margaret’s Scouts helped with the plants.

Over 17th and 20th February 2016, A Rocha staff and volunteers – along with church groups and local community members – worked together to plant a total of 60 fruit trees and 120 edible hedging plants.

The trees and hedging will form the community orchard at Wolf Fields. More than 30 different native varieties of fruit trees and bushes have been planted – including apples, pears, cherries, plums and some more unusual trees such as mulberry, quince and medlar.

It is our aim to manage the trees as a traditional community orchard. Traditional orchards are defined as those with five or more trees spaced less than twenty metres apart and ‘extensively’ managed. This means they are not treated with chemicals, the grass around them is cut seasonally for hay and the trees are allowed to reach full maturity.

This kind of management is extremely beneficial for wildlife, especially insects. Predators, like ladybirds, will be attracted to the area and will help to keep down pests, while pollinators will benefit from tree blossom. Many invertebrate species benefit from deadwood left standing or lying in the orchard, which is why it is important to maintain deadwood habitats.

The orchard is supported by the apiary that is managed by a local volunteer. The beehives moved in to Wolf Fields in July 2015 and have already proved an important resource for visiting schoolchildren learning about pollination.

wolf fields harvest 5FUTURE PLANS

We run weekly community work parties at the site to help keep Wolf Fields maintained. We have installed a shipping container at Wolf Fields to act as a secure storage area for the tools and equipment the work party needs each week.

The aim now is to involve local children in painting a mural designed by talented local community members onto the container. We hope to be able to install a solar panel on the roof that will power a light bulb inside the container.

The help and support of local people is key to achieving our aims at Wolf Fields. We hope to expand and formalise our Wolf Fields Friends Group in the coming months. Funding has just been received for a wildlife pond which will form an important focal point for wildlife on the site.

Work will be commencing on the pond in the coming months. We are still waiting on funding for a pond-dipping platform, equipment for eco-education activities and also for a wildflower meadow to help support the apiary.

YOUR ROLE

We couldn’t do all we are doing at Wolf Fields without the support of our local community volunteers and A Rocha UK supporters who donate to the project. We are constantly expanding our Friends Group. To be part of this, the only condition is that you live in the Southall area.

If you feel this is somWolf Fields Illustrated Map (cropped)ething you would be interested in, please contact us on 020 8574 5935. We would be delighted to provide you with more information.

The Wolf Fields project is run and managed by A Rocha UK and supported by the Wolf Fields steering group, an independent advisory group looking at aspects of site management, events, school links etc.

Project director is Andy Lester and Kailean Khongsai handles the day-to-day site management. PR manager Clive Price deals with media enquiries. If you would like to contact us about this project, please direct your email to the relevant person via uk@arocha.org.

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