Friends of Dagnam Park
December 2013.

Park security telephone number 07904 805 872

Since the last newsletter in April the parkland has seen the coming and going of some of the most loveliest days to be had in The Manor and now, as I type and reflect back on those balmy days when the sun was at its highest, I see, once again, that it is raining and all thoughts of the past year spent tramping around the fields are but a still and distant memory. Like many who spend their time in the parkland, be it walking, fishing or just sitting in a corner of a field having some "me" time I find that having been in there "my batteries are recharged", as someone put it to me only the other week, which is why I suppose that the number of people now using the park has gone up quite a bit as they discover what the parkland has to offer, which all in all is a good thing but trying to find a quiet place to sit and enjoy the park is getting more and more difficult, but hey-ho you cannot it have both ways as we need people to be aware of the parkland and to use it fittingly.


From a wet, windy and cold start to the year the spring came and went like the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, rushing in and being late on arrival.
With cold frosty mornings which went on through to mid-April it was a wonder that anything was out and about to be seen. But seen they were, with Goldcrests being spotted in Hatter’s Wood in the first week of April and Treecreeper and Nuthatch going from tree to tree being spotted as well. Visiting the parkland first thing in the morning, when the new day’s sun was slowly rising over Brentwood and before anyone else broke ground with their footsteps one could, if you were very lucky and in the right place, catch a glimpse of a Stoat or two harrying the young Kits as they tried desperately to get out of their way and find safety in amongst the adult rabbits.

Early morning also brought unexpected sights such as Muntjac gingerly hugging the field boundaries in the hope that no one, or thing, would spot them and if they were spotted or disturbed on their preamble they would quickly crash through the hedgerow just as quick as they had appeared. 

By the 3rd week of May, Spring, or what was supposed to be Spring was leaving, as it had arrived, like an un-welcomed guest with a dose of measles, but things were looking up. With the hatching of goslings on both the Green Lake and Perch Pond and Long Tail Tits gathering insects to feed their young in nesting sites across the parkland there was plenty to observe and learn from.

By the middle of June Fallow Does had also had their young and the sound of the fawn’s gentle bleating for their mothers could be heard filling the early morning and early evening air (even as I type this out in late December this sound can still be heard occasionally  as one walks through the parkland). Standing at the edge of field under the cover of an over- hanging branch of an Oak and watching deer cautiously enter a field with their young following by their side and continuously holding their heads erect so as to catch any scent that they may find that “spells” danger to them is also something that many of the park users do not have a chance of doing. They may catch a glimpse of a few deer in the distance or, if they are lucky, see a small herd run in front of them but many of the users to the park have yet to see any deer at all.

By the end of the month both Fox and Deer had young to feed. The Fox, which only has one litter per year has a gestation period of 52-53 days and has dropped her litter by mid-April, dependant of course when she mated and has, generally, a litter of four or five cubs deep in its earth.

The cubs suckle up to the Vixen to take her milk and at some point, usually by the time that the cubs are four – five weeks old they will be weaned from this by having solid food, in the form of small mammals etc found by the Vixen and deposited in front of them. As they grew older the cubs can be found sunning their-selves just outside the earth and occasionally play-fighting.

One of the best sights that I was able to witness this year was of a Vixen moving her litter, one at a time, by carrying them in her mouth, from her earth where she had been disturbed to another earth two fields away from the first, a magical sight with no one else around to view the scene.

In the first week of November some of the park users received a big surprise when they came across a large animal that was to be found running with the Fallow Deer. Described by some as being ..."as big as an 'orse"...or ..."it’s the size of a large pony" ...." I only caught a quick sight of it but I tell you it put the wotsits up me,
….. its massive!..." I, and a couple of others were intrigued to say the least and by the second week reports were coming back by others who had seen this large animal on a more regular basis and by the end of that week I had seen it myself and yes it is big and if anyone has seen it they will not forget it in a hurry.

The massive 'orse/pony sized animal turned out to be a lone Red Deer Stag that had wandered in from outside of the park and which was looking for a mate as it was the rutting season for this specie of deer. Surprisingly there are wild Red Deer in Essex and these can be found in Hatfield Forest as well as Epping Forest running freely. As well as running freely in the two already mentioned places Red Deer can be found in the countryside around Ongar, Brentwood, Chelmsford and the Rodings area of Essex.

Although there are no other Reds within The Manor this lone stag can, and most possibly will, mate with some of the Fallow Does which may prove interesting in the spring when the Does have their young.

Along with the unexpected Red Deer (which in some respects is a bonus) the bird life is doing well within the parkland and as I sit and type this in the third week of December Redwings have been gorging their selves on the berries from the Hawthorne bushes that abound along the main drive for the last two weeks. Feeding off of the Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Dogwood and Yew and moving onto the Holly and also the Ivy these birds stay in small flocks moving from one food source to another. You can see Redwings in most of the field boundaries within The Manor but for a better, dryer underfoot place to see them I would suggest that one should start near to the white gate posts on the drive and walk north towards Noak Hill where there is plenty of food for these birds and whilst looking out for the Redwings keep an eye out for the Fieldfares that, as a rule, accompany them.


Football Pitches.

The football pitches have been now laid, the fencing taken down and they now await marking out and the first ball to be kicked (officially) across the turf. The FODP have been informed that these pitches are for the use of under 12’s only and, according to one member of the council, they will only be used on Sunday mornings (although I think that his idea of usage and whoever plays on these pitches idea of how they will be used may differ as a team, of whatever age, has to practice somewhere during the week days for their match at the weekends).

It will also be interesting to see how long it is before a planning application goes in to the relevant LBH department for changing facilities/ toilets to accommodate the teams and their supporters as Sport England were insistent on having facilities provided in the report that was put out in June 2012 in relation to the pitches going into the parkland and at Broxhill. Anyone that is interested in reading the report can find it here.

Land mass in the parkland.

The Manor has now officially had the ex-farm land that abuts the parkland in the north and east added to it and it now has a total of 345 acres making it the largest park in Havering. The combined 202 acres that has been added to the park was once part of Manor Farm and Hill Farm respectively and was (partly) still being used for agricultural purposes up until August of this year. It now means that one can enter the park via Whitchurch Road (by the footpath) and stay in the park until one reaches the Weald Brook thus giving the park user an unprecedented opportunity to enjoy the parkland as one should in its entirety without a vehicle in sight (if you do not count those who use the car park in Settle Road and the M25 that is).

However with the added land that now makes up The Manor one has to remember that the Park Security will need park users even more to contact them as soon as they see anything untoward going on. The Park Security Team have been an asset to not only our park but to all of those across Havering since their forming and they work tirelessly in making sure that our parks are kept free of trouble makers in all forms, but they cannot do this without our help so please whenever you use the park keep in mind that help is on hand when needed from the Park Security Team. You will find their telephone number near the top of this newsletter and if you load it into your mobile you will know that you have it with you at all times.

With the extra land comes another point that we, as a group, have to take into consideration and that is its management on a day to day, week by week basis. We can all participate in this by walking the fields on a regular basis and reporting any dumping of rubbish, abandoned vehicles or, as was the case in late August this year illegal raves. It has also been noted that we have had people camping out in the parkland at odd times over the past year and if anyone sees this happening then our advice is please do not approach but report it straight away to the Park Security Team for them to deal with it.

For anyone who does not know the “new area” I would gladly meet up with them to walk them around to show just where the parkland stretches too now…just let me know if anyone is interested in doing this.


….and finally…

I would just like to take this opportunity to wish all a Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Don Tait