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Peaty finders: discovering London’s last peat bogs

Friday 15th May 2015

View of Keston Bog by Jenny Price View of Keston Bog by Jenny Price

A new report from London Wildlife Trust highlights the rare but important bogs of London.

Press release. Embargo: 00.01am Friday 15th May 2015

Once common across large areas of England such bogs are becoming increasingly scarce, but the beautiful, star-like flowers of bog asphodel still bloom in Bromley, the rare marsh violet can still be found in Shirley near Croydon and the lesser skullcap, pollinated by the long-tongued bee, can still be spotted on Wimbledon Common. 

Many people think of bogs as muddy and smelly, but they can be fabulous for wildlife, some of which is incredibly scarce...

These last boggy strongholds provide a damp but colourful habitat for a wide range of plant and animals; and play an important part in conserving the rich variety of wildlife species that still call London home.

Petra Sovic Davies, an ecologist with London Wildlife Trust and author of Peaty finders, commented: “Many people think of bogs as muddy and smelly, but they can be fabulous for wildlife, some of which is incredibly scarce in the Greater London area. London’s last few bogs may be isolated and few, but that makes them all the more important. We are working with local partners involved in these bogs to develop a project that will focus on conserving these habitats and enhancing their special wildlife value.”

Here are the last six surviving bogs in London, according to London Wildlife Trust’s Peaty finders report. All are free to visit except Hall Grange Bog in Shirley.

Farm Bog, Wimbledon Common

Bogbean

Farm Bog is located just north of an ancient Iron Age fort named Caesar’s Camp. In summer this is a colourful mosaic of bright green and yellow Sphagnum mosses, purple moorgrass and beautiful bogbean. Dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies and bees fill the air and on a sunny day, common lizards can be seen basking in the sunshine.

Keston Bog, Bromley

Bog asphodel

Perhaps the most colourful bog in Greater London, this is the only London location where the bright yellow, star-shaped flowers of bog asphodel can be found in large numbers. The bog itself is off-limits, but can be viewed from the surrounding paths which also take in Hayes and Keston Commons. The area is so important for wildlife it has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

West Heath Bog, Hampstead Heath

Sphagnum moss

This small bog was first recorded in 1597, when it was visited by John Gerarde, the author of Herball, a book famous for its botanical illustrations. The bog supports a range of boggy species that are very rare for London, including Sphagnum mosses. A 1977 investigation revealed layers of charcoal in the soil, traces of past burning on the Heath to clear vegetation.

Rowley Green Common, Barnet

Rowley Green CommonOld gravel diggings once supported a much larger bog on this site, but the boggy vegetation is now disappearing and without intervention it will be lost. This is the only location in the borough of Barnet where star sedge can be found, resembling miniature and medieval-looking spiked clubs.

Kenwood Bog, Hampstead

Water-horsetailThe extensive grounds of Kenwood House support one of London’s last Sphagnum bogs, which along with the adjacent ancient woodland have been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Water horsetail is rare in London but can be found here. Ancient and enormous relatives of this primitive plant once flourished at the time of the dinosaurs.

Hall Grange Bog, Shirley

Ragged-robinThis small and fragile bog is the only remnant of the Sphagnum bogs that were once widespread in this area. The rare marsh violet can be spotted here, along with marsh-marigold, ragged-robin and other bog loving species. The bog has survived as part of a garden created in the 1880s by the vicar of the nearby St John’s Church, the Rev. William Wilks and is now owned by Methodist Homes for the Aged, who maintain the garden along with the Croydon Conservation Volunteers. The gardens can only be visited by appointment.

More information

To find out more about London’s peat bogs download Peaty finders: discovering London’s bogs

For a map showing the locations of the bogs described in Peaty finders please see www.bit.ly/london-bogs

For more media information, interviews or images please contact Ian Tokelove at London Wildlife Trust on 020 7803 4293 or press@wildlondon.org.uk

London Wildlife Trust is the only charity dedicated solely to protecting the capital's wildlife and wild spaces, engaging London's diverse communities through access to our nature reserves, campaigning, volunteering and education. 

Main image: Keston bog by Jenny Price 

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