Pinner Park Farm is a 93 hectare (230 acres) countryside site surrounded by the suburban residential areas of Pinner Village and Headstone. It is owned by the London Borough of Harrow and leased to Hall & Sons (Dairy Farmers) Ltd, which formerly ran it as a dairy farm. It is designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC).
Address: Pinner Park Farm, George V Avenue, Pinner, Middlesex HA5 4SU (Map:; OS grid reference TQ135904).
History[edit | edit source]
Pinner Park has existed since the 13th century, when it was part of a large area around Harrow placed under the control of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The woodland was then used as pannage for pigs, but by the 15th century most of the trees had been cut down for timber and charcoal and the cleared areas were used mainly for pasture. Part of the park was also stocked with roe deer, protected from the depredation of local people by a high bank (parts of which still exist) and two ditches. The park held about 100 deer by the end of the 15th century.
From the middle of the 15th century, the park was leased by the archbishopric to local farmers. In the 16th century, when the lordship and ownership of the Harrow lands was transferred from ecclesiastical to lay hands during Henry VIII’s reign, the lands continued to be leased to the same tenants. Records show that by then 64 per cent of Pinner Park was arable land, used for growing cereals (mainly wheat), peas, beans, tares and hay. The 18th century saw a shift from arable land to meadow, with 65 per cent of Pinner Park being meadow by the end of the century.
In the 19th century, legislation allowing enclosure saw Pinner’s previous open fields parcelled into farms. Hay became an increasingly important crop as fuel for London’s horses. But as the suburban population increased, dairying slowly began to take over, and in about 1920, Pinner Park Farm changed from hay and livestock to dairy farming. During the Second World War, the farm began growing cereals again, but after the war it reverted to pasture. By 1967, the entire 230 acres was producing grass to feed 240 Friesian cows, with the milk mainly sold in the surrounding residential areas. However, dairying ended some years ago, and small industrial firms began operating from the old dairy buildings, while agricultural use of the farm has continued.
Habitat[edit | edit source]
The site’s habitats include hedgerows, improved agricultural grassland, ponds, running water, scattered trees and secondary woodland. The pastures have been re-seeded and treated with fertilisers and so have little botanical diversity. The old field boundary hedges with ancient emergent oaks (Quercus robur) are valuable wildlife habitats, especially for birds. The farm is well known for its old field ponds, of which four survive. These support a fairly diverse wetland flora, including brooklime (Veronica beccabunga), water plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica), branched bur-reed (Sparganium erectum) and trifid bur-marigold (Bidens tripartita).
The River Pinn runs in a deep channel through the western part of the farm. Aquatic vegetation is restricted to a little Canadian waterweed (Elodea canadensis). A narrow belt of woodland, dominated by hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) lines the river.
In the south of the farm is a strip of oak woodland known locally as The Copse. This has a good shrub layer, including guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus), dogwood (Cornus sanguinea), holly (Ilex aquilifolium) and field maple (Acer campestre). Sheets of bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) cover the ground in spring.
Species[edit | edit source]
Little Owl still breed on the site, as do Swallow around the farm buildings, after a couple of blank years. House Martin formerly bred nearby in Woodridings Avenue (backs on to the farm). Snipe still over-winter here, but can be impossible to find if you don't know exactly where to look. Little Egret are now a recently established over-wintering species, mainly along the River Pinn. Meadow Pipit over-winter on the fields, with the occasional Skylark, which sadly no longer breed. In winter hundreds of Redwing & Fieldfare carpet the fields all over the farm with the wintering Starling flock (some years huge) included among them.
Gulls are often found using the surrounding playing fields & this occasionally produces a Mediterranean Gull, or even something more coastal like a Kittiwake which has been recorded flying over en route to Hilfield Park Reservoir.
The main pond is always a good magnet for unusual visitors, which include Green & Common Sandpiper at passage times, but in recent years, the water levels have simply been too high. Little Grebe bred in 2004. Mallard is unsurprisingly the commonest duck and a regular breeder, Shoveler is the most regular of the wintering duck, with Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck & Gadwall to a lesser degree. A female Pochard has very recently been recorded here (for the first time), and very occasionally Mandarin turn up. Two Goosander occurred here on March 9th 1999.
Pheasant is recorded just about annually, but Red-legged Partridge is now a real rarity. Cuckoo used to be a regular spring migrant, but is now difficult. Tawny Owl breed nearby in Hatch End & occasionally a wandering bird is recorded. Green & Great Spotted Woodpecker both breed, but sadly Lesser Spotted Woodpecker has not been recorded since 2004. Nuthatch breed in the Moss Close wooded area along the River Pinn, but Treecreeper is now thought to be extinct at this site, with the last record in 2001.
Kingfishers use the River Pinn, usually in the winter months, & are occasionally found on the main pond in autumn.
Warblers in summer include Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap & Chiffchaff. Willow Warbler is a double passage migrant with Garden Warbler being very scarce. Sedge Warbler is a rarity & Reed Warbler, an extreme rarity with only two records for the farm (2002 & 2011), & one record nearby at Headstone Moat (2009).
Hobbies are regularly seen in summer, while Sparrowhawk is resident in the area. Kestrel has had a terrible time over last few winters and at one point, was almost regarded as a rarity, but thankfully, it has recovered . Common Buzzard are often seen & now breed at this site. Red Kite has had an unthinkable surge in numbers, with up to five in the air recorded together & Peregrine Falcon is a recently established aquisition to the site.
In terms of passage migrants & I'll start with chats, (1,119) have been recorded & on the correct day include guaranteed Wheatear - (658 to date) & probably the sites top speciality bird, including a blistering count of 21 birds on April 22nd 2004. Whinchat (304 to date) is guaranteed in autumn. Stonechat (75 to date) is increasing again. Common Redstart (66 to date) is usually annual, (some years are brilliant - 1995, 2002 & 2009) & some years are dreadful with none recorded - (1996 & 2008). Black Redstart (19 to date) appear statisically annual, but none were recorded between 1998 - 2002, so this species can go missing for five years. Yellow Wagtail (1,206 to date) also do very well here, especially in autumn, but have decreased in numbers due to the size reductions in the cattle herd recently. The common warblers can be found all over the place at passage times.
Several Ring Ouzel have been recorded here, mainly in spring. Spotted Flycatcher still occur here in autumn, with odd records around the main pond in late August & early September.
Nine species of finch have been recorded, with Crossbill and Brambling being the most notable.
Four species of bunting have occurred here & none of them are straightforward - Yellowhammer is a rare migrant, & Reed Bunting is only just about annual.
Rarities at this site are well represented with an Ortolan Bunting (a super first-winter male) around the rubbish tip on September 2nd 2002, a Great Grey Shrike was found in the middle hedge on October 12th 1998, a Red-backed Shrike was found in the middle hedge with a Wryneck present in nearby Oaks on September 19th 2005 (what a day that was), with the shrike staying in the middle hedge for at least nine days. A much more obliging & fairly well behaved Wryneck spent three days around the farm buildings from September 15th -17th in 2008, allowing a large number of London birders to catch up with this often awkward rarity.
Pied Flycatcher (not so much a rarity, just rare here) has been recorded just twice on August 2nd 2000 & September 4th 2014 & a calling Woodlark flew over my head on October 19th 2000.
Other overflying goodies & visitors include Osprey (twice), Marsh Harrier, Curlew & Whimbrel. Tree Sparrows nested here in the 1980s but were sadly extinct by 1992. One, (a first-winter) found along the main bridleway on September 21st 2009 was the first record in seventeen years.
The most glaring omissions from the site (with thoughts as to when & where they might occur) are: Great Crested Grebe (winter - main pond), Dunlin (March - main pond), Redshank (March/April - main pond) & Greenshank (July/August - main pond). Predictions for the next new species is always near impossible, but fingers crossed for Waxwing, Oystercatcher & Raven - hopefully we'll find out sometime in the not too distant future.. (Jon Ridge, 22/08/17).
Muntjac deer have been recorded, but are extremely few & far between. Foxes have been heavily & rather harshly culled in recent years, but a few individuals still remain. Rabbits are a fairly recent acquistion to this site, and are now well established around the rubbish tip & middle hedge.
The much maligned, but fairly harmless Brown Rat is also found here. Other not so welcome guests include Grey Squirrels, which now seem to be everywhere. The Badger sett near railway line has long been vacated for some years now. Moles are common here with Mice & Shrews occasionally being recorded, but these are easily overlooked. The occasional Weasel is recorded - just about annually. It is probably worth mentioning that I have never encountered a single Hedgehog (in over 20 years of recording at this site).
All manner of Fish (piscifauna) are present in the main pond, mainly due to visitors using the main pond as a depository for their unwanted pets. Common frogs still breed in the ponds which may also be used by other amphibians. Sticklebacks occur in the River Pinn & Bats (chiroptera) have been seen at dusk around the farm buildings (JR, 13/04/15).
The most noteworthy Lepidoptera moment which comes to mind was on May 25th 2009, when over the course of the afternoon, 355 Painted Ladies were counted, mostly flying north. I simply gave up counting at 16:00 when I reached 350, (I just didn't think anyone would believe me) - however, when I arrived home, at least 20 more were still going through my back garden that evening. On reflection, a more sustained farm count could have resulted in a four figure total recorded - a once in a lifetime record, as I have seen less than ten in the UK since 2009... (JR, 13/04/15).
Practicalities[edit | edit source]
The nearest station is Headstone Lane, on the London Overground line between London Euston and Watford Junction. The nearest London Underground station is either Pinner or North Harrow (Metropolitan Line). Nearby bus routes include 183, 350, H11, H12, H13, H14, H18 and H19.
Pinner Park Farm is a working farm and access is confined to the public footpaths across the site. Starting from Pinner Station there is a pleasant walk across the site to Headstone Lane Station. Go down Station Approach and turn right on the High Street and right again on Church Lane. After you pass Pinner House, turn left into an alley way, which will take you to the base of Wakehams Hill, (which is quite steep, but only a two minute walk) - at the top of the hill you will see a public footpath sign. There are a couple of seats just before the beginning of the walk where you can sit and enjoy the country view before setting off. The path is pleasant, downhill and through open meadows. After passing through a gateway/stile the way becomes more sheltered with Hawthorn hedgerows and Oak trees. When you reach the busy George V Avenue, cross over to the Pinner Park Farm sign. Note the “Beware of the bull” sign and keep to the footpath. You pass run-down farm buildings, including the substantion mid-18th farmhouse (a Grade II listed building). The walk becomes more attractive after the outbuildings, & the main pond is to the right, about 120 yards out. At the end of the footpath, go through the swing gate and turn right into a quiet lane running up to the Garden Centre. At the end of the lane you will see Headstone Lane station over the road.
Headstone Moat is very much part of the same site but was sectioned off in 1998 after Harrow Council in their infinite wisdom & kindness, elected to build a fence at the access point, which means for the last 18 years, I have had to walk all the way up to the station & down Headstone Lane to get there - (it's 15 seconds away as the crow flies...)
There is a rather redundant hide around the main pond installed by well meaning staff around 2004, which is sometimes used to photograph birds. On May 13th 2008 a Common Sandpiper landed on top of it - a priceless birding moment (JR).
‘’This information has been cobbled together from various internet sources by someone who has never visited the site but thinks that it deserves a page on the London Bird Club Wiki. If you are familiar with the site, please correct, expand and/or update this information. Many thanks to Andrew Haynes for the historical info & for setting this page up - I will try to expand on, update & correct information as it unfolds (Jon Ridge).