Bedfont Lakes Country Park consists of about 75 hectares (180 acres) of rolling meadows, woodlands and lakes on a former landfill site. It is on the western edge of the London Borough of Hounslow, close to Heathrow Airport. The site is divided by a railway line and both sides of the park are open to the public.
Until the 1920s, the site formed part of a large orchard that supplied Covent Garden market. The area was then worked for sand and gravel until the 1950s, and used as a landfill site until 1973, leaving a mixture of polluted lakes, wasteland and abandoned machinery.
In 1988 Hounslow Council granted permission for a huge revitalisation of the area, and 2 million cubic metres of soil and refuse were used to form hills (the highest point in the borough at 95ft), which were seeded with a wildflower mix. The existing lakes were extended and footpaths were laid out around the site.
The park opened to the public in July 1995 and since then has won several national awards for its design and management. It gained local nature reserve status in 2000 and was designated a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation in 2007 .
The site’s habitats include lakes, ponds, reedbeds, neutral and acid grassland, scrub and various types of woodland, predominantly willow carr. More than 360 plant species have been recorded. Countryside Rangers maintain each habitat for the benefit of the wildlife, with most of the work carried out in winter to keep disturbance to a minimum. Around the park, logs and tree stumps have been left to rot to provide a habitat for invertebrates, notably the Stag Beetle.
In just a few years, the park has established itself as one of the best birdwatching sites in south-west London. It boasts a list of 163 species, with up to 100 of these seen annually.
- Resident species: These include Skylark, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Crested Grebe, Kestrel, Ring-necked Parakeet, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Kingfisher, Reed Bunting and overwintering Chiffchaff.
- Winter visitors: These include Bittern, Smew, Fieldfare, Redwing, Water Rail and occasionally Firecrest and Cetti's Warbler..
- Summer visitors: In summer, the woodland, reeds and scrub attract nesting migrant warblers, including Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler, Common Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroats. A growing population of Common Tern nest on the rafts. Swift and House Martin can be seen feeding over the lakes and are themselves hunted by Hobby. Swallows breed in the adjacent smalholdings
- Passage migrants: Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail, Spotted Flycatcher, Ring Ouzel, Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper. In recent years we have had Nightingale, Wryneck and Grasshopper Warbler too.
- Mammals: The site holds many Rabbit, which are predated by Red Fox, Stoat and Weasel. Smaller mammals include Common Shrew, Field Vole, Bank Vole and Wood Mouse. The site also has regionally important bat populations, including the rare Nathusius’ Pipistrelle. The park’s roost site for this species was only the second site to be found in England. Others bats recorded here are Common and Soprano Pipistrelle, Daubenton’s, Noctule, Serotine and Leisler’s bats.
- Amphibians: Amphibians found in the country park are Common Toad, Common Frog, Marsh Frog (introduced into the UK in 1935 and now fairly common around lakes in South West London) and Smooth Newt.
- Fish: Fish present in the lakes include Pike, Tench, Common Carp, Mirror Carp, Perch, Bream, Roach, Rudd and Stickleback.
- Butterflies: Twenty-seven species of butterfly have been recorded at Bedfont Lakes, including Brown Argus, Purple Hairstreak, Brimstone, Red Admiral, Clouded Yellow, Peacock, Speckled Wood Common, Grizzled and Essex Skipper. We have even had Camberwell Beauty and Swallowtail.
- Moths: The lakes, reedbeds and wet woodland provide habitats for some localised moths, including a dozen species of Wainscot moths, whose larvae feed specifically on Common Reed. The site also has one of London’s very few known colonies of Goat Moth, whose caterpillars feed on deciduous trees, particularly willow.
- Dragonflies: In summer, the lakes host a range of dragonfly species, including Brown, Southern, Common and Migrant Hawker, Emperor, Broad-bodied Chaser, Black-tailed Skimmer, Ruddy and Common Darter, and damselflies, including Common Blue, Red-eyed, Blue-tailed and Azure. In 1997 Red-veined Darter bred here
- Beetles: The most notable beetle in the park is the Stag Beetle, Britain’s largest beetle, which in summer can be seen flying late in the afternoon and into the evening.
- Arachnids: Another rare resident invertebrate is the Wasp Spider, which has spread northwards from its stronghold on the south coast.
- Thames Terrace Invertebrates: Many species of mining bees and wasps associated with the thames terrace gravels habitat have been recorded, including the RDB1 Nomada xanthosticta.
- Road: By car, the site can be approached from Central London by taking the M4 to Junction 3. Follow the A312 south, cross the A4 and turn right on the A30, past Hatton Cross station (on the right) and over a set of traffic lights to a roundabout. Take the third exit into Clockhouse Lane (or the second exit into Bedfont Road). From the south, west or north, follow the M25 to Junction 13. Take the A30 towards Central London, passing through the Crooked Billet traffic light complex and over another set of traffic lights (by Ashford Hospital) to a roundabout. Take the fourth exit into Clockhouse Lane (or the third exit into Bedfont Road). There are free car parks at the Clockhouse Lane and Bedfont Road entrances.
- Rail: If travelling by train, alight at Feltham (on the line from London Waterloo to Windsor, Weybridge and Reading) or Hatton Cross (London Underground Piccadilly Line). From either station, take the H26 bus. Bus 116 runs between Hounslow Bus Station and Ashford Hospital. Alight at Bedfont Green. The park is a short walk from there.
The park is open every day except Christmas Day, from 8am until dusk or 9pm - whichever is earlier.
On the western edge of the park (Clockhouse Lane entrance) is an information centre, where there are public toilets, including a disabled toilet.
If you would like further information about Bedfont Lakes Country Park please e-mail: [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.orgHechris.email@example.com ]
He Heis the Ecologist covering the site.