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Island with no name to become bird haven

Plan to fence off peninsula originally constructed as a picnic area

13 September, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

The official opening of the island – or peninsula – at the Highgate Model Boating Pond

THE “island with no name” on a Hampstead Heath pond is set to be permanently fenced off to the public in the hope new species of birds will make it their home.

The City of London, which manages the Heath, had originally planned to allow people to walk onto the peninsula jutting into the Highgate Model Boating Pond as a new picnic spot.

But after it was created during the £22million dams project, it was decided to carry out an ecological survey, and the results have paved the way for the island to remain off limits to human visitors so that it can be used as a wildlife haven instead.

Heath superintendent Bob Warnock said in a new report that 14 months after the project was completed “the island is well used by a number of bird species and is already providing an important refuge”. The survey showed coots, moorhens, geese and herons using the island, as well as a great crested grebe.

A monitoring camera set up last year found foxes visiting the island on several nights, “seemingly feeding off worms”, according to Mr Warnock’s report. The prowling predators may have prevented birds from nesting, it added.

Meanwhile, dogs were seen on the camera having swum across and “humans were recorded on the island on three occasions with all these visits taking place in the evening, after dark”.

The report did not say what they were seen doing there. The island is currently without a name despite a raft of suggestions from the public after the New Journal covered its opening.

It had originally been conceived as a landscape feature with the initial planning application including images of picnickers happily lazing in the shade of trees.

Once the diggers left, the City shut off the ground with an eye to helping the soil recover and wild grasses establish. And as the fences stayed in place, many Heath visitors called for it to become a wildlife sanctuary.

Mr Warnock’s report to a management committee said: “Generally, the feedback from members of the public has been to keep the island closed to people. The Marylebone Bird Watchers made a representation at the Hampstead Heath Consultative Committee Meeting in March 2017, in relation to the Island to becoming a Wildlife Sanctuary with no public access. A petition was received at the time signed by 5,333 supporters.”

Mr Warnock added: “Since the works were completed, the island’s value as a wildlife refuge has been realised… Due to its relatively small size and sloping ground, the island is vulnerable to compaction and erosion. Public access would quickly lead to trampling and degradation of the wildflower areas and loss of ground cover.”

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