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Upminster's natural beauty

PUBLISHED: 09:52 10 February 2009 | UPDATED: 08:57 21 February 2013

Hazel Catkins

Hazel Catkins

Upminster is set for a huge population increase as two new nature reserves bring an abundance of new species of wildlife to the area.Nicky Adams reports

DEVELOPERS are moving in at Upminster with plans to build thousands
of new homes in the area. Work at two new nature reserves, Cranham Brickworks and Cranham Marsh, is set to bring a huge population growth to Upminster and the surrounding area, but it will be local wildlife benefitting from the new homes and habitats created, not people.
When they come out of hibernation towards the end of this month,
the local population of great crested newts is quite likely to make
a beeline for the deliciously murky waters of the pond at the new
Cranham Brickworks Local Nature Reserve.

'It is often a surprise to find you are only a stone's throw from a fantastic pond, wildflower meadow or ancient woodland where you can find a great variety of wildlife, or simply a peaceful oasis away from the hustle and bustle of urban life,' says Benjamin Sanderson, the countryside projects officer at Havering Council. 'These two new reserves will give local people the chance to have contact with nature closer to where they live.'
Local Nature Reserve is a statutory designation and Upminster is
very lucky to have Cranham Brickfields and Cranham Marsh, as well
as three other Local Nature Reserves that are already established in
the London Borough of Havering.

'The official label gives these special sites protection in recognition of their value to wildlife and the local community,' explains Benjamin,
'and it also raises their profile, which all helps with funding and focusing attention on their future use and management. Above all, Local Nature Reserve designation helps to ensure that areas of special interest
are protected for future generations to enjoy.'

Homes and habitats
In fact, local people are already relishing the opportunity to take tranquil strolls through the woodlands and wildflower meadows of the reserves, spotting the wildlife as they go. As well as the great crested newt, the 8.5-hectare Cranham Brickworks Local Nature Reserve has habitats that make comfortable homes for species such as Dyer's greenweed, pepper saxifrage, slow worms, common lizards, stag beetles, butterflies and
many migrant birds.

Right on the edge of Cranham, it's hard to believe that this peaceful
oasis of meadows and scrubland was at one time used for excavating
clay to make bricks and has also been a football pitch, a wartime vegetable garden and even a boating lake. These days, as well as its Local Nature Reserve status, Cranham Brickworks is recognised by the Greater London Authority as a Grade I Site of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation. A public right of way runs right through the reserve, from Sunnycroft Gardens to St Mary's Lane, and there is a small car park.
Nearby Cranham Marsh Local Nature Reserve is set within Cranham Conservation Area and is designated by the Greater London Authority
as a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation, which recognises the value of its wildlife interest. The site comprises a glorious mixture of semi-natural habitats, including marsh, sedge fen, damp meadow and wet woodland that is believed to be ancient. The woodland is in three parts and has some of the most magnificent - and possibly the largest - ash trees in the whole of Essex.

Marsh and meadows
Ideal for a leisurely stroll or a longer walk along the connected Public Rights of Way, the 13 hectares of marsh and meadows here grow an amazing diversity of wildflowers, some of which are extremely rare in London and south Essex. Eagle-eyed visitors may be lucky enough to
spot the southern marsh orchid, fine-leaved water-dropwort, golden dock, fen bedstraw, yellow loosestrife and small sweet-grass, as well as various reptiles, great crested newts and water voles. The site is managed by the hard work and support of volunteers from Essex Wildlife Trust and practical habitat management is undertaken over the winter including coppicing, maintaining ditches, dams and ponds, hedgelaying
and scrub clearance.

Cranham Brickworks and Cranham Marsh are supported by Havering Council, and Essex Wildlife Trust as well as the many local residents
who have not been afraid to get their hands dirty on working open days.
In return for their hard work, volunteers can pick the brains of conservation specialists and take part in guided walks to improve their knowledge of the local wildlife. Tools, training, tea and biscuits are all provided - as well as a fabulous opportunity to get close to nature.

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