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Crayford Marshes Vision published

28th November 2023

A vision for a nature haven, where rare wildlife including red-listed Skylark & Corn Bunting are found, is to be unveiled on 1 December 2023 by the Friends of Crayford Marshes community group in a bid to protect this much-loved wildlife oasis from development threats.

CPRE London previously wrote about this site in March 2023 when local campaigners were asking for the public’s help.

In December 2023 they publish the Crayford Marshes Vision alongside the local community and many wildlife charities. It was created following a survey (Crayford Marshes Survey Report) carried out within the local community asking people how they would like to see the marshes used in the future. The information received as a result showcases the potential of this regionally important site and highlights the area as a real community asset.

94% of people said Crayford Marshes was either ‘very important’ or ‘somewhat important’ for their physical or mental well-being and 96% of people said they would like to see dedicated areas focusing on the conservation of breeding grounds for rare and red-listed species.

The Friends of Crayford Marshes engaged with local people as well as five wildlife charities who all lend their support to this vision; Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Buglife, London Wildlife Trust, CPRE London the Countryside Charity, Thames 21 and Wildfowl & Wetland Trust.

Now the Friends of Crayford Marshes want to action the vision to make it happen!

This site is an amazing resource for Bexley residents and indeed all of London, and it should be treated as such. To ensure more people are benefiting from it, particularly those who are less likely to gain the benefits from spending time in nature, CRPE London is calling on Bexley Council and others to join with the Friends of Crayford Marshes to do two things:

  1. Establish a clearer identity for the site, showing what’s available for people to do and see. Promote this information widely, including via the council’s borough parks website page; and work with GoParksLondon to promote Crayford Marsh as a destination for Bexley residents and schools as well as for visitors from further afield. Let’s be loud and proud about this wonderful site! Lots of people know about Abbey Wood, but how many know about the wildlife at Crayford Marsh?
  2. Deliver improvements to the site so it’s an even better habitat for wildlife; and so visitors can gain the maximum benefits. It is already an amazing destination, much enjoyed and valued by the local community and visitors from further afield. But improvements are needed and we want Bexley Council, the GLA, the landowners and nature and wildlife organisations to deliver improvements. We want to work with partners to:
  • Install green bridges for nature corridors and to improve accessibility
  • Halt and clearing flytipping along Wallhouse Road
  • Discourage motorbikes (perhaps establishing somewhere else they can go)
  • Update nature records and applying for SSSI status if appropriate
  • Install a birdwatching hide
  • Consider how toilet facilities, a café, and information & education centre or educational visitor space (to ensure schools and visitors can enjoy and learn about the history and rare wildlife on their doorstep) might be incorporated on the site
  • Support further consultation with local youth organisations
  • Install better signage and interpretation boards (history and nature)
  • Improve paths to make them more accessible paths and even wheelchair access

Donna Zimmer, Friends of Crayford Marshes said: “The vision is a great tool which clearly shows the value of the whole site to people and for wildlife. I’m looking forward to reaching out and working with all stakeholders to make the vision happen. Crayford Marshes is a regionally important site for nature conservation and should be protected for the rare wildlife that lives and breeds here plus for the health and enjoyment for Bexley residents for generations to come.”

Jamie Robins, Programmes Manager from Buglife said: “Species like the Shrill Carder Bee and Brown-banded Carder Bee depend on places like Crayford Marshes to survive- vital areas of habitat in the crowded Greater London area. Making this Vision happen will help to secure the future for a host of scarce invertebrates and other wildlife.”

Joseph Beale, Conservation Officer at RSPB said: “Corn Bunting and Skylark are both once-familiar British songbirds whose populations have sadly suffered huge losses over the last few decades. Both species are ground-nesting birds of farmland and open country, and both have made their home within the wildlife-rich landscape of Crayford Marshes. The Skylark’s famous song, delivered by the bird in flight with seemingly boundless energy, is an uplifting melody that has inspired poetry and literature through the ages, including Shakespeare. The stout Corn Bunting’s distinctive song is supposed to sound like a jangling bunch of keys and is delivered from a song post or wires. Sadly, these charismatic songbirds have been lost from vast areas of our countryside to the extent that both are now Red-listed as UK Birds of Conservation Concern. Corn Buntings, for example, have declined nationally by over 80% since the 1960s, and in the London area have gone from over 100 pairs in the 1970s to fewer than 20 pairs today. Changes in farming practices which have resulted in a loss of insects and seeds throughout the year and a reduced window of opportunity for nesting, are thought to be responsible for much of these alarming declines, as well as habitat loss in some places. The fact that after such dramatic declines Corn Buntings and Skylarks still breed in the London area at Crayford Marshes is something we should celebrate and is one of many very good reasons why protecting Crayford’s precious wildlife habitats is so important.”

Alice Roberts, Head of Green Space Campaigns of CPRE London said: “It’s unbelievable that a developer can think this is an appropriate site for building houses. It’s protected Green Belt, critical for flood management and an important nature reserve. We want to see the site renamed Crayford Marshes Park. We want new features and facilities like toilets and a café, a bird hide and habitat enhancement. And the local council should proudly promote it as the amazing visitor attraction it is. We want this space to be one of ‘Ten New Parks for London‘ – a big campaign we’re running at CPRE London to demonstrate how spaces which don’t have a clear identity are coming under threat, when they could be incredible parks for Londoners to enjoy.”