Good things come in trees

Earlier this week the tree planting programme began at the Model Boating Pond. Approximately 186 trees and shrubs are to be planted across the Heath to replace trees which were removed in February 2015 to build the scheme. These are all native species and include varieties such as oak, elm, black poplar, willow and hawthorn. Their locations have been selectecd by the Heath’s ecology and conservation team.

At Model Boating Pond eight of the trees have come from our own nursery at Kenwood so have been grown from seed on the Heath.


Planting a black poplar

These trees include:

  • two black poplars.  A broadleaf deciduous tree native to the UK and Europe. It is also the most endangered native tree in Britain. Mature trees grow to 30m and can live for 200 years. The bark is dark brown but often appears black, and is thick with numerous fissures and burrs.
  • five disease resistant elms. A deciduous tree native to southern and eastern Europe. These have been specially bred to be resistant to Dutch Elm disease. Mature trees grow to 30m and can live for more than 100 years. The bark is grey brown, rough and fissured, often with suckers growing from the base of the trunk. Three of these elms have been planted on the new island.
  • one oak. English oak is arguably the best known and loved of British native trees. It is a large deciduous tree up to 20-40m tall and can live for more than 200 years.Their smooth and silvery brown bark becomes rugged and deeply fissured with age. Oak tree growth is particularly rapid in youth but gradually slows at around 120 years.

One lime, three hawthorns and three osier willows will also be planted at this pond. We also intend to plant a further eight oak saplings in the Tumulus Field along the line of a former ancient hedgerow.

Posted in Environment, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The completed scheme – Highgate Chain

Now that the construction element of the project has finished, I thought a post describing what has happened at each pond, along with an explanation of how these works improve dam safety, might be useful. In this post I will concentrate on the Highgate Chain and I will then go on to describe the Hampstead Chain in a future post.

There are five ponds in the Highgate Chain which come under the management of the City of London. A further two ponds are in the Kenwood estate and are managed by English Heritage. The Highgate Chain has a big catchment, which means water from a large area ends up in the pond chain – this is due to the geography of the Heath and the fact that water flows off the hills around the ponds.

Stock Pond


Stock Pond

Stock Pond is a relatively small pond and receives water from the two ponds in the Kenwood Estate, as well as run off from the surrounding hills. There had been flooding issues at this pond in the past, and during a flood in 2010 the dam was damaged when the pond water came over the top of the dam (overtopping) and caused some erosion to the downstream side of the earth dam.

The work carried out here as part of the Ponds Project includes raising the dam by half a metre. A spillway was also constructed. A spillway is a construction which allows water to leave a pond safely and in a controlled way so that it does not flow over the top of the dam and cause damage. At the Stock Pond the spillway is a large grassy area, and was designed so it would fit in with the surrounding landscape. The spillway is lower than the new raised dam so if water levels do rise then water leaves the pond via the spillway and flows over ground down to the next pond, in this case, Ladies Pond. The final piece of work at this pond was to add a culvert, or a large pipe, which allows water to flow out of the pond and then down a stream into the Ladies Pond. This replaces an existing pipe which often used to get blocked with silt. Water will flow down this pipe continuously, except in dry periods when the flow stops.

Several trees were removed from the edge of this pond, including some oaks, to allow for the spillway to be constructed. We have planted some additional aquatic plants in the pond which will help with water quality and will also provide a good habitat for birds, fish and invertebrates. Aerators have also been added to all of the ponds, which add oxygen to water to improve water quality. Finally, silt was also removed from the bottom of the pond which will also help improve water quality.


Stock Pond

Kenwood Ladies Bathing Pond

Part of the works at this pond have included replacing the building which sits on the dam. This had to happen for two reasons. Firstly the building was on the dam, which needed to be raised slightly, and secondly when we got the results back from survey of the concrete deck it was found to be in very poor condition. The old changing rooms have been replaced with two buildings. One provides changing facilities and toilets, and the other is the lifeguards facility. The building was prefabricated in a warehouse and brought to the Heath in five sections. You can see photos of this process in this  post. This method of construction was chosen to shorten the construction period so that the pond was closed for the shortest time possible.

The other works included building a spillway, so like Stock Pond, water could leave the pond safely and flow down to the next pond (Bird Sanctuary).


Ladies Pond building, with incomplete spillway in foreground

The spillway at Ladies Pond is also grass lined and at the bottom it has a concrete stilling basin. The pipe which allows a flow of water from Ladies Pond to Bird Sanctuary was also replaced and enlarged. Some additional aquatic plants and an aerator were also added.  Silt has been removed from the pond.  All of these factors will contribute to better water quality and we’ve already had reports from swimmers that the situation is much improved. At the top end of the pond some wetland scrapes were also added to naturally filtrate the water, and remove silt as it flows down from Stock Pond.

Several trees were removed from the spillway area and we will be planting some replacement trees in this location, but we have also received positive feedback from swimmers on the additional light in the pond as well as a more open view thanks to the tree removal.

Bird Sanctuary

Bird Sanctuary pond is a haven for wildlife thanks to being completely fenced off from the public. It is a home to many types of bird, including the kingfisher. It is because of this special status that works on this pond were kept to an absolute minimum, with the vast majority being focussed on environmental improvements, described here. Some very slight leveling of the dam took place, which in reality just looks like path resurfacing works. One of the pipes which connects Bird Sanctuary to Model Boating Pond was also enlarged.


Bird Sanctuary

Model Boating Pond

The vast majority of the works across the entire Ponds Project happened around the Model Boating Pond. The works were focussed here for a number of reasons:

  • Its location in the middle of the Highgate Chain makes it a good place to store extra water – it can store the water coming from the ponds above it, and is far enough away from the end of the chain where the risk of overtopping and dam failure has the biggest consequence to the communities south of the Heath.
  • It was the most municipal-looking pond on the Heath – with hard sheet metal piling around all sides. The new design softens the hard edges around the north, south and west of the pond, re-profiles the pond to a more natural shape and introduces more aquatic planting which benefit wildlife and water quality.
  • It is located between two hills, which means by building up a clay dam at the southern end of the pond –  in front of the existing dam – there is a natural bowl created which can hold water in the case of an extreme flooding event. In this event the Model Boating Pond and the Bird Sanctuary Pond would join as one pond temporarily. The water stored would then be released in a more controlled manner after the peak of the flood has passed.

A new dam was created using clay found in the borrow pits (located to the west of the pond within the large work compound) and from the western edge of the pond which has been excavated and re-profiled leaving an island (linked by a causeway) – which saves a group of mature trees.

A spillway has been created in the south-west corner of the pond. This is made of reinforced grass turf and in the event of a large flood, will allow water to safely leave the pond, and travel down to Men’s Bathing Pond, without over-topping and potentially causing damage to the dam. Aerators have also been added to replace much larger pieces of equipment which were there previously.


Model Boating Pond

Men’s Bathing Pond

At Men’s Pond the dam has also been raised but this time by a sheet metal wall with an oak capping. The wall runs the length of the dam except for the spillway in the south-west corner. Aquatic plants have been put in front of it to camouflage it from the pond-side, and also improve water quality.


The spillway is grass lined and allows water to safely leave the pond in the event of a large flood.


Men’s Pond spillway

Other environmental improvements include a small check dam in the north-west corner to filter water before it enters the pond, and the addition of two aerators. Silt was also removed from the pond last winter. Men’s Pond had issues with blue-green algae in the past and we hope these environmental  enhancements will help with this.

Highgate No. 1 Pond


Highgate No. 1 Pond

The final pond in the Highgate Chain is Highgate No. 1, It is also the pond closest to a high density of residential properties. The dam has been raised by 1.25m with a sheet pile wall with an oak cap, similar to the work that took place at Men’s Pond. A grass lined spillway has also been created at the southern edge of the pond. This allows water to leave the pond safely in the event of a large flood. A timber retaining wall made of timber sleepers has been built along the eastern edge of the spillway (where the boundary of the Heath meet’s Brookfield Mansion’s boundary). A similar wall has been built at the other end of the dam, on the land of one of the adjoining landowners.

Highgate No. 1 spillway 5 Oct 2016.JPG

Highgate No. 1 spillway

Pipes which connect the Highgate No. 1 Pond to the sewers have been retained and in a normal flow water leaves the pond this way. If the Highgate No. 1 spillway ever does come into use, during a very large storm, the water flows down the spillway and down the hill, where it eventually finds its way into the sewers through gutters and land drains. Flood water is not retained permanently on the Heath but because of the extra storage incorporated at Model Boating Pond, it is temporarily stored and then released gradually after the peak of the storm. An aerator and aquatic plants were also added here to help improve water quality.

The works on this chain have eliminated the chance of uncontrolled overtopping of the dams and increased the standard of protection against flooding downstream.

If you are interested in more technical information on the design development and the basic principles of the scheme, the Preferred Solution Report might be of interest to you.

A concise history of the project can be found here.


Posted in Construction, Environment, History, Programme, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The grass is always greener

As the construction element of the project draws to a close, we can now start to see grass shoots appearing in the areas which have alredy been hydro-seeded. This includes the area to the west of Model Boating Pond.


Grass begining to shoot

All around the newly landscaped Model Boating Pond there are beautiful views, made even more wonderful by the trees changing colour for autumn.

On the Hampstead Chain, BAM’s final compound on the Heath (at Pryor’s Field) is gradually shrinking in size as their kit is moved from site.


Viaduct Pond

Works have finished at all of the ponds on this chain, with the exception of the restoration of the work compound.


Hampstead No. 2

The last remaining works are the planting of various shrubs and trees to replace some of the trees that were taken down to allow for the construction of the scheme. Some of this work is being carried out by BAM,  in the week commencing 7 November, and the rest will be taken care of by Heath staff.

Posted in Construction, Environment, Programme, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The finishing touches

Now the majority of construction works are finished, the focus moves to environmental restoration, specifically seeding and planting.

The areas to the west of Model Boating Pond have now been seeded and we are waiting for the green shoots to appear.The hillside has a bluish-green colour as it is the reminents of a dye used during the hydroseeding process.


Model Boating Pond

BAM Nuttall have also been carrying out some more work on the paths around the pond which have been getting water-logged when it rains.

Planting has been taking place at the Men’s Pond along the pond-side of the sheet-pile wall. This planting helps to camoflage and naturalise the wall. Pendulus sedge has been planted right along the front.This is a tall, perennial plant which forms large, dense tufts. It has been chosen as it grows well on heavy clays and should thrive in this location.


Planting at Men’s Pond


Planting at Men’s Pond

Environmental works are also taking place at the northern end of Men’s Pond where the corner of the pond is being slightly extended and planted with reeds in order to act as a sediment and filter bed to reduce the inputs into the pond. Two woody check dam have also been fitted here to collect sediment and debris before it enters into the pond. This work here is still in progress.


North west corner of Men’s Pond


North west corner of Men’s Pond

A number of trees and shrubs are also due to be planted but this will take place in November which is a more appropriate time to plant.


Posted in Environment, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ponds Project provides homes for bats, birds and insects!

One of the first posts on this blog was about the installation of bat boxes as part of the environmental mitigation of the project. In March 2015  six boxes were put up to compensate for the loss of two small features in trees removed during the site clearance works for the Ponds Project. Another six have been put up as environmental enhancments and a further eight are to be installed.

Last week members of the Heath’s conservation and ecology team carried out regular monitoring of the boxes.


In one box there was a pipistrelle bat.



In a further four boxes, there was plenty of bat droppings – 18g of poo compared to the one bat, which weighed 6g. This is a good indication the boxes are being frequented by several bats.

And it’s not just bats making use of these boxes, three bird nests were also found, (we think these belong to blue-tits) along with several species of spider and a wasp nest.


Bird nest


Wasp nest


Posted in Environment, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Construction completion

This week marks the final completion of the construction phase of the project – 18 months since the project started in April 2015. To mark the occassion on Wednesday the paths around the Model Boating Pond were opened to the public. The island is still fenced off while grass becomes established.

Construction works across the Heath have now been completed with only some finishing off work remaining. This includes restoring the compound  and haul road at Pryor’s Field.


Haul road which has been seeded


Pryor’s Field compound

The area south of  Viaduct Pond is also being restored and the path replaced.


Viaduct Pond

There are still large areas of ground fenced off to allow turf  and seed to establish and the Heath staff will closely monitor these area and take fences down as soon as they can. There are also a number of trees and shrubs to be planted which I will describe in more detail soon.

Posted in Construction, Programme, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Ponds project progress

The finishing touches are being added to the various sites with the construction elment of the project expected to be finished on programme by the end of the month.

The spillway at Highgate No. 1 pond is now covered in turf.


Highgate No 1 spillway

On the path past Men’s Bathing Pond, we are removing a section of the old path, and instead making the diversion (where the old pond box stood) the permanent path. This is to protect the roots of a veteran oak tree, which is nearby.


Old path removed to protet veteran oak



Section of path from causeway by Model Boating Pond

The Model Boating pond is now almost finished, with some finishing work taking place on the paths around it. From next Wednesday (12, October) at 10.30am the paths will be open to the public. The island and the areas which have been turfed and seeded will remain fenced off to protect the ground until the grass has become established.


Model Boating Pond

The swan family from Highgate No. 1 must have heard about the new re-landscaped pond and have moved up to have a closer look.


Swans on Model Boating Pond

The new aquatic plants are now being fenced off to protect them from wildfowl and dogs


Fencing aquatic plants

Around Model Boating Pond there are a number of different edges – some with reeds, some without, and some the original sheet pile finish. This part of the design was developed after consultation with stakeholders, and is to ensure the pond can still be used by anglers and model boaters. An example of the new hard edge can be seen below – top soil is still to be placed behind the wooden poles to fill the gap.


Hard edge at Model Boating Pond

Hydroseeding has been taking place this week in the compound next to Model Boating Pond. The seed is applied with a blue/green dye which helps with a more even distribution.


Hydroseeded area


Hydroseeded area

The final path surface has been laid at Stock Pond. A golden gravel has been applied to the tarmac finish.


Stock Pond

A similar finish has been applied at Vale of Health, Mixed Pond and the causeway between Hampstead 1 and 2.


Vale of Health


Mixed Pond


Hampstead No. 2 causeway

A similar finish is to be applied to the path which runs past Sports Pitch and that work is taking place now.


Path to be resurfaced

Aquatic planting is currently underway at Hampstead No. 1 pond and at Mixed Pond.


Hampstead No. 1


Mixed Pond

Posted in Construction, Programme, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment