This page features details of the Standing Water Habitats (Ponds), Wetland areas and the River Cray within Foos Cray Meadows.

 

The 'Froglife 'Ponds at Foots Cray Meadows a Brief History and Update May 2016.

These standing water ponds were created in 2010 when the London Borough of Bexley and FFCM teamed up with  'Froglife' The charity for the conservation of native amphibians and reptiles.

 

'Meanwhile in South London, major work is underway at Foots Cray Meadows park, Bexley this summer. Funded by Cory Environmental Trust in Britain, a complex of nine new ponds will be created and other habitats improved to benefit the great crested newts on site'.Excerpt from the Froglife Newsletter 'The Natterchat' June 2010' follow this link for the full publication http://bit.ly/1Tpteku

 

So Foots Cray Meadows has benefited greatly from the experts at 'Froglife' with the design and introduction of the ponds for amphibian habitat and wild flower banks from the spoil. The ponds have been created to the south west of the five arches lake, sheltered by the woods on the west bank and beyond the end of the lime tree avenue. This once wet meadow area was probably also underwater as a part of the much larger man-made lake, the remnants of which make up today's open water at the 'Five Arches'.

 

The ponds were dug out during an extensive period of low rainfall and with the exception of the pond nearest to All Saints Church they initially looked raw with little water, the project plan was and has largely been to allow the ponds to self colonise. The wetter weather over recent years (which also caused the return of flooding on the Meadows in 2014), has raised the water table and filled these ponds as desired. Today they have merged into the Meadows landscape becoming an important additional natural feature within the open space public amenity.

 

The images here were taken in April 2016 and give an indication of the spring water levels after our warm and wet winter. The levels will fluctuate especially during the warmer months; they may even, during a hot dry summer dry up. But I am assured they will remain ponds and when water returns so will their wildlife. The ponds were designed and located to be separate habitats as standing water they are not linked to the river and have different characteristics appealing to a variety of pond life

Enjoying the Ponds.

The wire fence surrounding the pond area was introduced to protect the ponds from excessive intrusion, but there are gates to allow access for people to responsibly explore this natural habitat (This section is part of the Local Nature Reserve).

Spring is breeding time for frogs and toads so a visit may enable you to see these creatures returning to these still and undisturbed water bodies to breed. In the coming months as this spring turns to summer lookout for Damselflies and Dragonflies hovering above the ponds.

 

I would ask dog handlers not to allow their dogs into the ponds to prevent excessive disturbance to the delicate natural habitat of the ponds, especially during the breeding season. However, families and other visitors are welcome to have a close look at the ponds, do take care when exploring this fascination section of Foots Cray Meadows.

Written Article and Images by Michael Heath, May 2016 - comment ffcm06@gmail.com

The views expressed by the Author are not necessarily those of the FFCM Committee, London Borough of Bexley Council or the Charity Froglife.

Visit the Froglife website - http://www.froglife.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Gravel Shifting at the Five Arches - image by Ron Pearson

River Cray - Foots Cray Meadows 

North West Kent Countryside Partnership are working with Thames21 to create a kilometre of river enhancements at Foots Cray Meadows. The project, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, will create a diversity of flow through this section of river and provide improved habitat for invertebrates, fish and small mammals such as water vole.
Using large woody debris the project will create artificial margins within the river which will create a more sinuous flow within the channel. Diggers will also be used in the channel to move the gravel around and create pool and riffle habitat.
The stretch of the river Cray running through Foots Cray Meadows is very pretty however, the river has become over wide and shallow in places, this work will help to create a more natural chalk stream habitat and offer greater benefit to wildlife.
For more information or to get involved contact Mark Gallant on 01322 294 727 or email mark.gallant@kent.gov.uk

Click here for the related article in the News Shopper 

Posted 22 August 2014 

 

 

FFCM and the River Cray   

For the last two years I have worked for Thames21 as their River Cray project officer and many of you are aware of this intrinsic link with the Meadows. Our short urban river is much loved by the people of Bromley and Bexley. However, it has been heavily modified over the last three centuries from its natural chalk stream model to today's often stressed river habitat. Surprisingly this is even so at and around Foots Cray Meadows where remnants of industrial use and aesthetic modification have left us with, straight, concrete sections, reaches of over wide channel, uniform water levels and a lack of marginal vegetation at the river edges all of which minimises the River Cray's potential as a natural river corridor.  We now have the opportunity to address this and improve the visitor experience the river brings to Foots Cray Meadows.

Thames21 with North West Kent Countryside Partnership (NWKCP) have secured funding for a wonderful opportunity for the community to be involved in the creation of river habitat enhancement downstream of the five arches. In stream the proposals are: for some gravel shifting and deflectors to restore a varied river bed giving a mixed flow velocity with riffles and pools. At the river edge areas of marginal vegetation will provide improved; river side wildlife habitat, with greater vegetation more insect's etc. better fish habitat and more Macrophytes (in stream vegetation).

We will also look to upgrade the river walking experience around these pockets of marginal river bank vegetation, and with restoration of some eroded paths. Walkers can enjoy and monitor their development as the natural environment benefits from less intrusion along areas of the river bank, to allow a home for wildlife. The loss of the three Poplar trees last autumn, their upturned roots and large wooden debris beside the river has started this process and shows how we can complement how the river wants to flow through the Meadows, without detriment to our flood control measures.  

Last year a similar improvement programme was completed on the Cray at Hall Place and this has met with a positive reception. These types of water environment improvements are Central Government policy being delivered through the Catchment Based Approach to England's Rivers. Locally the River Cray Catchment Improvement Group brings together, Local Authorities, Environment Agency, NWKCP, Thames21 Landowners, other groups and communities to develop a local plan to improve our local water bodies.   

Michael Heath  March 2014.

comment  michael.heath@thames21.ork.uk   



 


 

image 1 2011

 

 
image 2 2011
 
 

 
 

A (very potted) History of the River Cray

 

The River Crayis a Southern tributary of the Thames. a chalk stream fed from the aquifer of the North Downs. The Cray bubbles up at the Orpington Ponds in Priory Gardens just East of Orpington Town Centre and flows North (through the Boroughs of Bromley and Bexley) into the Darent just before the latter joins the Thames. Today it is probably best described as a heavily modified urban river.

For humans the pre history attraction was the clear warm waters and spring line for hunter gathers and early settlers to the Cray. These settlements become Villages and staging posts for Coast to London traffic.

 

The Upper Cray

 

The villages of St Mary, St Paul's and Foots Cray developed with the river as their central feature into Market villages with Mills, In the 18thCentury at St Mary Cray they produced quality paper for banknotes and later food wrapping materials. The spectacular and often forgotten railway viaduct across the valley was built in 1858 and highlights how the railway would at first allow the region to retain its rural market garden function but develop into London's South Eastern Suburbs, The outdoor Blue Lagoon lido of the 1930's is today replaced by the Nugent Retail Park.

 

18 Century - Houses for the wealthy Country Estates

 

Prior to the Railway the Cray Valleys location near to London attracted the wealthy and distinguished residential landowners with a desire for substantial country homes and estate, probably the best examples are the Palladian mansion at Foots Cray Place, other mansions at North Cray Place and Loring Hall, Here the 18thCentury fashion for these estates has the river much altered for aesthetic reasons.

 

The legacy of this landscaping possibly even influenced by the celebrity Lancelot (Capability) Brown is that we have the fine open space at Foots Cray Meadows with the iconic Five Arches Bridge and Lake. 

 

Bexley and Hall Place

 

Bexley almost certainly a Saxon Settlement has records in the Doomsday Book of three mills. The last mill was built in 1776 as a corn mill, converted to steam in Victorian times because the water power had diminished. Destroyed by Fire in 1966; it was rebuilt used as a restaurant and now converted to dwellings. To meet the demand of a mill the Cray has been straightened in the reach to the Mills i.e. into Bexley Village parallel to the North Cray road.

 

Mills on the river at Hall Place have been recorded since the Doomsday Book, Hall Place is a distinctive part Tutor, part Jacobean country house parts dating back to 1540 today the house and grounds are maintained by the Bexley Heritage Trust. 

 

 

Crayford and the Lower Cray

 

Developed by the river at Watling Street there is evidence of an Iron Age settlement with a church on the site of St Paulinus since the Saxons.

 

Industry has been a key factor since an Iron Mill was built to the east of the village in the 15thCentury; followed by bleaching, silk printing, tanneries and brick making in the 17thand 18thCenturies. The Cray was diverted to its present site to meet the business growth of this estuary area. These industries dominated until the railway brought the Vickers armaments factories and workers homes creating the basis for today's industrial town. Today's mixture is of light engineering, distribution and logistical companies serving the South East. 

 

Summary

 

Throughout its 15 Kilometres the River Cray and its tributary the Shuttle have been heavily modified away from its chalk stream wish to run free and meander through the Cray valley. The reasons for alteration are:

 

Aesthetically such as at Foots Cray Meadows, for agricultural reasons and for industry most notably on the lower Cray at Crayford and Barnes Cray The Cray today is diverted against the western side of the valley with the small tributaries of Wansunt and Stanham being channelled under the town centre.

 

For residential development the river has been affected by the need for flood defences; with tidal protection afforded by the Dartford Creek Barrier and fluvial flood mitigation works, notably the reservoir at Hall place.

 

Conclusion and Future

 

Today the river sits in places entrapped as a result of the development of our Residential and Industrial Heritage. Does it need to remain like this and what are the ecological and social benefits of restoration of its natural features against retention of manmade features which retain water levels? These important issues and actions are for discussion with local communities and interest groups.

 

There are a number of organisations involved in this and the Environment Agency has brought them together to form a River Cray Catchment Improvement Group to promote the management of the River Cray. The Friends of Foots Cray Meadows are members. For further information contactmichael.heath@thames21.org.uk

  

This article prepared by Michael Heath September 2012 from the primary sources: Along the River Cray - Katherine Harding and Denise Baldwin (New edition to be published December 2012) & Crayford Strategy & Action Plan 2004 Bexley Council  

Click here for a Map of the River Cray Catchment