Hounslow Council offers its employees two volunteering days each year to undertake charitable initiatives in the wider community so, on Tuesday 7th November, members of Hounslow’s Digital and IT team donned their gardening gloves and wielded their gardening tools to build nature habitats in the borough’s beautiful Syon Park.
In support of our strategic objective to deliver a greener Hounslow, the activities were led and organised by Digital Learning and Innovation Analyst, Adrian Griffee, who is also a seasoned conservationist. In his spare time, Adrian volunteers with a conservation group at sites across Southwest London, planting trees, managing invasive species, and promoting biodiversity. Adrian liaised with the grounds management team at the charity responsible for preserving Syon Park, who provided their advice and approval for the activity.
Pictured on site, left-right: Siobhan Neligan, Business Relationship Manager; Joyce Manangan, IT Commercial Team Leader; Simon Klee, Strategic Relationship and Engagement Manager; Mukhtiar Gill, Data Quality Analyst; Nicholas McCarthy, Head of Digital Services; Dione Harrington, Data Quality Analyst; Weronika Stelmaszyk, Data Quality Analyst; Anna Trichkine, Data Quality Lead.
Despite the November climate, and after the recent storms, it was a crisp autumn day and the sun’s rays lit up the stunning landscape of Syon Park. The famed park is host to a variety of valuable local amenities, including the Grade I listed Syon House, historic home to the Duke of Northumberland. The site hosts a popular garden centre, conservatory, arboretum, café, luxury hotel, and events venue which all contribute to the thriving local economy, history, and culture.
Syon Park is widely renowned for its 100 acres of landscaped parkland, designed by Capability Brown in the eighteenth century. Its grounds are a haven for nature and wildlife, with natural features including lakes, ancient trees, and scenic walking routes, all conveniently nestled within the bustling borough of Hounslow and overlooking the majestic river Thames. Syon Park is also home to Tide Meadow, 40 acres of tall grass washland, which is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
During a busy day of activity, the team split into two smaller groups to dig two large holes through turf and London clay soil, to form the basis of a habitat for stag beetles, insects, and other wildlife. The holes must be dug wide and deep enough to accommodate lengths of wood to be covered by the ground, to enable to decomposition process to take place. The team here demonstrated the vital depth of the foundations, at around 2 feet deep.
Pictured left-right: Nicholas McCarthy, Head of Digital Services; Simon Klee, Strategic Relationship and Engagement Manager; Hovik Avedian, Application Analyst; Siobhan Neligan, Business Relationship Manager; Joyce Manangan, IT Commercial Team Leader; Mukhtiar Gill, Data Quality Analyst; Weronika Stelmaszyk, Data Quality Analyst; Dione Harrington, Data Quality Analyst; Anna Trichkine, Data Quality Lead.
Once the foundations were in place, the next task was to carefully assemble variously sized logs in the holes, to create a pyramid structure of wood that will eventually decay during winter, covered by turf, twigs and soil. The gaps that begin to form within the decayed wood, protected from the elements and predators, become a thriving home for invertebrates and fungi – essential for local biodiversity.
One of the rarest and most important insects that it is hoped will take up residence in the newly created habitats is the stag beetle. Though they can be found across London’s parkland, stag beetles are a protected species, and are in steep decline across Europe. They are also the UK’s largest terrestrial beetle, and whilst their antler-shaped jaws may look fierce, they are harmless to humans. Their larvae develop underground in rotting wood for several years, and they emerge during the summer mating season, when they wield their powerful jaws to wrestle for partners. If you are fortunate enough to spot one, the London Wildlife Trust encourages you to report the sighting, so that accurate records of their existence can be kept. Stag Beetle Campaign | London Wildlife Trust (wildlondon.org.uk)
And at last… the finished habitats! Note the way the natural materials blend seamlessly into the environment. The grass will eventually grow back to reclaim the ground around the habitats, which will be a lasting refuge for insects and wildlife.
The team really valued the opportunity to get out into Hounslow’s great outdoors and work together on a small project that will ultimately play an important role in conserving local flora and fauna. It’s all part of our vision to collaborate towards a greener Hounslow.