Little Wormwood Scrubs
Please note no barbeques are permitted in the park.
Little Wormwood Scrubs Biodiversity Enhancements
The Council is improving the biodiversity of many of its parks and open spaces.
The park is an important site for nature conservation, but bramble dominates the scrub and is slowly encroaching on the woodland and grassland, reducing overall biodiversity and accessibility. The grassland contains mostly coarse grasses with few wildflowers, providing little value for pollinators.
The improvement works have been designed with help from Butterfly Conservation and will be split into three phases all completed over Autumn/Winter 2023/24.
- The works will significantly change the appearance of the Little Wormwood Scrubs, however, ultimately the works will enhance biodiversity.
- It will open up space for new habitats and species to thrive, creating new wildflower meadows and increased planting of pollinatorfriendly trees and shrubs to contribute to the borough’s Bee Superhighway.
- The restoration will also improve access to nature for local residents and establish a sustainable management regime (including volunteer opportunities).
Update Following Public Consultation (Summer 2023)
Over the summer, three public consultation events were held in the park to discuss the proposed biodiversity enhancements. Many thanks to the 49 residents who took the time to share with us what the park means to them and how they’d like to see the habitats protected. We heard how the bramble is an integral part of the park, providing shelter for wildlife and creating secluded spaces for people to escape the noise of the wider park. The unique feel of the twisting pathways that crisscross through the scrub helps provide a sense of being far removed from Central London, giving the scrub habitat a secret and magical quality that has huge benefits for resident’s health and wellbeing. Residents provided fantastic suggestions for how the aims of the biodiversity enhancements and management requirements could be met while still maintaining these key elements of the park.
The proposed plans have now been updated to reflect the outcome of the consultation. The map below sets out the different habitat enhancements, from clearing bramble to removing invasive Turkey Oak saplings and creating two areas of wildflower meadow.
Residents attending the consultation were polled as to their preferred choice of heritage fruit tree to be included in the new planting. Plum, apple, and pear were the most popular choices. We will also look to include fruit trees that are less common or not currently present in the park, such as quince, crab apple and damson. All these trees are great for wildlife, providing food and shelter for pollinators and birds.
|Initial plans removed too much bramble. We need to keep enough bramble to maintain privacy and the wild, secluded feel of the site.
|Working with a resident group, we identified individual stands of bramble that could be removed across a wider area of the park without compromising the integrity of the feel of the site. Where the original proposal looked to remove 1ha of scrub across the central area of the park, this has now been reduced to 0.35ha of scrub removed in strategic pockets across the park.
|Keep enough bramble for wildlife to shelter, build nests and dens, and find protection from dogs.
|Keeping more of the central area of the scrub habitat will maintain an interconnected network of bramble and small trees to support wildlife.
|Remove patches of dense scrub that encourage antisocial behaviour and littering.
|Residents highlighted two areas of dense scrub that are prone to fly tipping and antisocial behaviour. Their removal has been factored into the updated plans.
|Cut more glades in with new tree planting.
|With residents, we identified three glades of different sizes. Two of these will be opened up a bit to provide space for new fruit trees.
|Keep a strip of bramble on the west side of the park next to the new meadow area to maintain a barrier to the main park path.
|This has been factored into the plans for bramble removal, keeping a strip of bramble approx. 3ft wide to separate the distinct areas.
|Trees are getting strangled by the bramble.
|The bramble stands that are due to be removed will allow us to open up space around some of the trees. For other trees, the bramble provides a good protective barrier while the trees mature.
|How will the meadow areas be protected?
|The two new meadow areas will have different treatments. The area in the SE of the park, near the playground, will be sown with a colourful mix of annuals and perennials. This will be fenced after it has been sown to allow it to establish. The other meadow area will be sown with a mix of perennials that joins up with the enhanced grassland area at the southern side of the scrub. This will be initially fenced to allow the seed to establish, but then will be left unfenced.
|How will you avoid damaging the ant hills?
|We will use specialised equipment that is able to manoeuvre around the ant hills. However, ant hills that are under very dense patches of bramble are unlikely to be inhabited, as the ants need sunlight to warm their home. Opening up some scrub areas to grassland will allow new ant colonies to establish.
|How will this work be maintained in the long-term?
|Habitats will be maintained through a mixture of our park contractors and conservation volunteer groups. A new management plan will set out works required for different areas of the park, including a rotating annual management plan for the bramble. Cutting back different bramble stands on rotation will maintain age and structural diversity.
|Rationalise and maintain the different paths through the scrub.
|The paths fall into three categories based on width and openness, from main paths to minor ones. They have all been mapped and their maintenance will form an ongoing part of the management plan.
Phase one – Grassland restoration
Creation of species-rich meadows. Soil removed to help create suitable meadow conditions will be used to restore a reptile basking bank in the north of the park.
Phase two – Bramble clearance and meadow restoration
- Removing about a third of the bramble and invasive species and restoring meadow habitat with more fruit trees. This will significantly change the landscape of the park and may seem drastic.
- However, the park is losing biodiversity due to the dominance of the bramble and these works will lead to long term habitat improvements.
- The bramble will be removed by volunteers and mechanical excavators in September and October, timed to reduce impact on reptile hibernation and bird nesting seasons.
Phase three – Scrub management
- Undertaking scrub management, creating glades and enhancing scrub edge habitat with more planting to support wildlife.
- An annual rotational maintenance cycle with be introduced for long term control of the bramble, supported by conservation volunteers.
The Council will be holding information workshops onsite to talk through the improvement works. These sessions will provide an opportunity for residents to raise any queries or concerns.
The workshops will be held on the following dates:
- Tuesday 15 August 4pm to 6pm
- Friday 25 August 9am to 11am
The workshops will take place on site at Little Wormwood Scrubs, next to the formal gardens.
Frequently asked questions
- Isn’t scrub habitat important?
Bramble is an important habitat and supports a significant proportion of the wildlife found on Little Wormwood Scrubs. However, the scrub is dominated by dense bramble, which spreads quickly and needs managing to stop it taking over the other habitats (grassland) resulting in a loss of biodiversity as well as accessible park space for visitors to enjoy.
Satellite images show how the scrub has expanded in the last 20 years.
The areas of bramble being retained will be cut back in parcels in different years and seasons, maintaining shelter and encouraging heathy growth and increased food source for wildlife. The parcels being cut back will be non-adjacent; the work will be done in a mosaic effect, leaving a mix of cut and uncut areas across the bramble area. The paths through the bramble will be maintained, and internal glades and scallops recreated to support a wider range of wildlife.
- Won’t this work destroy more habitat than it creates?
No, it won’t. Although the initial works will look quite dramatic, it will enable us to create more different types of habitat in the park, which in turn will support more wildlife, increasing biodiversity. Works to enhance the habitats that are already present, for example by diversifying the grassland, will also attract more wildlife species.
- What about the birds that use the scrub for nesting?
The inaccessible bramble thickets, with fruiting hawthorn and dog rose, provide fantastic nesting and feeding opportunities for breeding birds, and we don’t want to lose that. That’s why over half of the scrub habitat will remain. Works to remove scrub habitat at the southern end will take place from September, once the bird nesting season has finished.
- How will the ant hills be protected?
There are a number of Yellow Meadow Ant hills in the scrub areas and adjacent grassland and footpaths. The ants are an important part of the ecosystem at Little Wormwood Scrubs and the habitat works will be managed to protect them, using machinery that can navigate around the hills. Combined with ongoing management by hand, this should ensure that the ant population of the park is preserved.
- What sort of trees will be planted?
Fruit trees are already planted throughout the scrub, and we have funding for 10 more trees. We will be choosing at native, heritage species that will provide a food source for wildlife (and park visitors!), and are open to suggestions of what residents would like to see.
- How will you protect the new trees?
All of the newly planted trees will be protected by substantial tree guards until they establish. A mulch ring will also be created around the trees to help the new trees grow by removing competition from grass and other plants.
We will also provide watering bags around the new trees for the first two years to ensure the young trees are getting enough water.
- How will you know if the habitat works have been a success?
An ongoing programme of monitoring and surveys of key wildlife groups, including bats, birds, insects, mammals, reptiles and plants will be carried out. Results can be compared with historic records to help demonstrate the impact of the habitat works.
This year we have established a butterfly monitoring programme, with volunteers recording species seen each week. This ongoing annual programme will help capture changes to the butterfly population in terms of both numbers and species diversity. It will show us if our new planting is having the desired effect for wildlife and guide our ongoing management plans.
We will also be collecting resident and volunteer feedback on the project, so please do keep in touch to let us know what you think.
- How can I get involved?
To be added to the mailing list for updates on the habitat restoration project, and opportunities to get involved, please email the Ecology Service: [email protected].
Little Wormwood Scrubs 2km Family Fun Run
Every Sunday we hold the Little Wormwood Scrubs Fun Run. Starting at 11am. Meet at the vehicle entrance on Dalgarno Gardens, W10 5LL (near the notice board).
If you want to find out any more information, or simply let us know your interested please email [email protected]
Bring your own refreshments.
The Park consists of a large open area consisting of amenity grassland, semi-improved neutral grassland, scrub, scattered trees and woodland. There is an adventure playground with an adjoining One o' Clock club on the west side of the park and a smaller toddlers playground located on the east side.
Little Wormwood Scrubs is a Site of Nature Conservation Importance. The large area of semi-improved neutral grassland has a good range of grasses which supports a diverse number of invertebrates such as grasshoppers, butterflies and ants. The scrubland, consisting of young bramble, hawthorn and the semi-mature woodland, creates a habitat mosaic that provides an abundance of nesting and feeding areas for birds and mammals.
Little Wormwood Scrubs has been a public park since 1886. The land originally part of the Bishops of London lands and was acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1886. The land is currently held in trust by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham but is managed under a 20-year lease by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
The Scrubs was first recorded in 1189, when it is referred to as ‘Wormholt’ and the land is being cleared of natural undergrowth for agricultural purposes.
Little Wormwood Scrubs was once part of the ancient forest of Middlesex standing on 38 million-year-old, agriculturally inhospitable London marl. For a long time it was considered “waste” ground of the Manor of Fulham, used for “depasturing cattle and swine of copyhold tenants”.
The ancient track of Turvens Lane passed along the east side of the Scrubs going north to the Harrow Road. In 1844, following the road, an embankment was built for the Bristol, Birmingham and Thames Junction railway. Later known as the West London Railway, it dissected Wormwood Scrubs and brought Little Wormwood Scrubs into existence.
In 1840, gun maker Charles Lancaster leased a strip of land as a rifle range; this can be seen on the 1865 OS map.
Counters Creek, one of London’s lost rivers, is central to the story of Little Wormwood Scrubs. It rose to the north in Kensal Green Cemetery and emptied into the Thames at Chelsea Creek. It marked the parish boundary between Kensington and Hammersmith and formed the basis for the ornamental ponds.
After a petition on behalf of the residents of North Kensington in 1892, plans were made to transform Little Wormwood Scrubs into a park.
At the start of the 20th Century, plans to turn Little Wormwood Scrubs into a park were beginning to materialise. Counters Creek, the river that passed through the site, had been excavated and improved, new fencing had been erected and a path was created around the park.
Once the initial improvements had been carried out shrubbery was planted along the north perimeter to screen the adjoining Great Western Rail depot, and in 1904 London County Council, in order to encourage live music in its open spaces, authorised the construction of a bandstand in Little Wormwood Scrubs. The bandstand was positioned in the centre of the park, circled by trees, and was made of oak with window panes in sliding sashes. In 1919, due to public demand, public toilets were constructed in the north west corner.
It is unclear exactly when the ponds and weirs were removed. The 1935 Ordnance Survey map shows them intact but the 1955 Ordnance Survey map shows the shape of the park, with children’s playground and toilets, and shelters but no ponds.
In 1971 the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham took over the management of Little Wormwood Scrubs. In 1977 the play area, which had been situated in the north west corner, was moved to the south east corner and a “One O Clock Club” was built alongside changing rooms and storage. These constitute the buildings there now.
View the contact details for parks.
Last updated: 29 November 2023