How a wasteland became a wonderland

From 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.

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.


Harvest at Wold Fields

COMMUNITY ALLOTMENT

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. There have been records of blue tit, marsh tit, great tit, wren, robin, red kite, goldfinch, ring-necked parakeet and whitethroat.

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. We grow and harvest 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 are regularly 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.

The 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.


Children from local schools learning about pollination

POLLINATION 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 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 and we are working with a master bee keeper from Twickenham and Thames Valley Bee Keeping Association – at the start of 2019 we are poised to receive a new hive swarm! The beehives are an important resource for visiting schoolchildren learning about pollination.


Wolf Fields Illustrated Map (cropped)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 something 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. If you would like to contact us about this project, please direct your email to the relevant person via uk@arocha.org.