Running alongside the Hogsmill River, Tolworth Court Farm is Kingston’s largest green space at 43 ha and has the potential to be a pioneering nature reserve. The site itself can be dated back to the Domesday Book in 1086 and its ancient hedgerows that cross-cross the site pre-date the eighteenth-century Enclosure Act. The species-rich hedgerows support a locally important population of brown hairstreak butterfly. Mammals on the site include wood mice, bats, field voles and roe deer. The north corner consists of a wetland, supporting wildlife such as herons, little egrets and amphibians. The site’s last management plan dates back to 2003 and includes some ambitious targets that we would like to pick up and extend beyond.
Our Vision and Plans
Our vision is for a dynamic, mixed-mosaic nature reserve to support a more diverse and abundant set of wildlife. To do this, we are exploring the possibility of a mixed grazing regime to restore and enhance the site, while recognising the site’s long-standing cultural heritage.
We are delighted to announce that in partnership with Kingston Council and The Community Brain, we have received seed funding from the Greater London Authority (GLA) under the Greener resilience fund to deliver a range of activities throughout 2022 to kickstart our efforts to rewild the site.
The funding will focus on researching and understanding the borough’s largest nature reserve, with the longer-term aim of creating an exemplary project that will demonstrate the true potential of London’s larger urban and suburban green spaces. This will allow Tolworth Court Farm to showcase how it can support rich biodiversity, secure vital ecosystem services to combat climate change and engage more people in the local communities to fall in love with and care about the wildlife on their doorstep.
The project has the potential to highlight how rewilding can benefit the urban landscape and reconnect people with the natural world, while also celebrating its rich cultural heritage. Working with experts and local people this development funding will support the most comprehensive ecological surveys that the site has ever seen, to get a better understanding of the site’s existing ecology.
This exciting new project will help us gain a better ecological understanding of the site and create a long-term plan and vision for the farm with help from local people and visitors as they share thoughts and ideas about the area.
The year’s programme will have three distinctive workstreams, which will all contribute to the creation of a holistic and pioneering vision for the site.
Workstream One – Comprehensive Ecological Surveying
Coordinated by Citizen Zoo, the site will undergo the most comprehensive ecological surveying that the site has seen in recent history. This will include engaging with nationally recognised invertebrate experts and botanists who will undertake robust surveys throughout the season.
Initial surveys have identified over 360 species of invertebrate and the rare yellow vetchling plant. Additionally, five biacoustic sensors deployed in April by Carbon Rewild identified 41 species of birds and four species of mammal (details in the gallery below). We plan to run further bat walks in the summer to assess the bat population more thoroughly.
Further to this work, in conjunction with the Field Studies Council, there will be a series of Field Recorders Days that the general public can participate in, working alongside species experts to help survey the site and learn more about the incredible species that can be found within the reserve. To sign up for these sessions, please visit our volunteer page here.
We will also be working with local groups such as the Surbiton District Bird Watching Society and the local branch of Butterfly Conservation to run survey days.
Workstream Two – Feasibility Assessment
Citizen Zoo will also be coordinating work with leading conservation experts from across the UK to identify a range of conservation measures that can be implemented within the boundaries of the site. This will include looking at the feasibility of wetland creation and the establishment of conservation grazing. This will then inform an agreed management plan moving forward which will update and reference the 2003 management plan.
Workstream Three – Community Engagement and consultation
Working closely with The Community Brain, we will be delivering a range of community engagement activities, putting local people at the heart of this project. We would love to hear how you use the site and any ideas you may have moving forward. There will be lots of opportunities both in-person and virtually to engage and let your thoughts known.
Sign up to our volunteer newsletter here for updates on how future activities.