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History of Fryent Country Park

The 100 hectares of Fryent Country Park occupy a commanding position on Barn Hill from a summit at 86 metres above sea level through a network of fields and old hedges extending down the slopes.

Barn Hill is capped by free-draining Dollis Hill gravel, but the rest of the park lies on London Clay. The main use of the land was for hay production and livestock grazing rather than arable use, as the heavy soil is difficult to cultivate. The meadows are cut for hay once annually in the summer. The best time to see them is June. Hay making usually takes place in July. First the hay is cut, spread and then left to dry in the sun for a few days. Then it is collected up again, baled and transported to another farm. In the past, cattle and sheep were allowed to graze the aftermath (the late summer regrowth of grass).

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Barn Hill

The Harrow side to the west of the parish boundary consisted of enclosed fields.

A few hedges are thought to be relicts of the woodland that was here originally but most were planted to subdivide existing fields.

Barn Hill lost its original woodland and became fields by the sixteenth century.

In the eighteenth century these fields became part of the Barnhill Estate of Richard Page. He employed Humphry Repton to landscape both Barnhill and Wembley Park. The summit received a fishpond and woodland. A belt of trees were planted around the hedges at the foot of the hill.

Until 1920 Barn Hill was a golf course.

From 1927 it became an Open Space owned by Wembley Urban District Council.

The Lombardy poplar avenue (left) which gives Barn Hill its distinctive skyline was planted in 1935, possibly to commemorate King George V's Silver Jubilee.

Between the lower slopes and the summit the Oak scrub has developed since the late 1940s.

Hell Lane -- The parish boundary

The Harrow side to the west of the parish boundary consisted of enclosed fields.

A few hedges are thought to be relicts of the woodland that was here originally but most were planted to subdivide existing fields.

Barn Hill lost its original woodland and became fields by the sixteenth century.

In the eighteenth century these fields became part of the Barnhill Estate of Richard Page. He employed Humphry Repton to landscape both Barnhill and Wembley Park. The summit received a fishpond and woodland. A belt of trees were planted around the hedges at the foot of the hill.

Until 1920 Barn Hill was a golf course.

From 1927 it became an Open Space owned by Wembley Urban District Council.

The Lombardy poplar avenue (left) which gives Barn Hill its distinctive skyline was planted in 1935, possibly to commemorate King George V's Silver Jubilee.

Between the lower slopes and the summit the Oak scrub has developed since the late 1940s.

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Bush Farm and Beane Hill

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Hay Meadows and Hay Watch

The Kingsbury side to the east of the parish boundary, contained many small, irregular fields cleared from the woodland (assarting). Thin strips of woodland separated many of the fields. The many ponds are a legacy of the time when every field had its own. Middlesex County Council acquired the land to the east of Fryent Way around 1938. Fences were removed and the area was opened to the public from the 1970s.

The orchard at Bush Farm was marked on the sixteenth century parish map but was horse grazing in the twentieth century. Restoration work since the late 1980s has fenced off the horse grazing. Mulberry, damsons and hops have recovered. A perimeter hedge has been added and a collection of fruit trees characteristic of types typical to Middlesex orchards.

The woodland of Beane Hill was planted in the late 1980s and includes ash, grey alder, sweet chestnut and wild cherry.

Hay harvesting at Fryent Country Park typically commences in mid-July but the weather and other factors can delay the start. (Right the 2015 hay harvest). The majority of the meadows are harvested while leaving uncut a tenth of the area of each meadow.  The uncut areas are rotated each year so there will be a different area left uncut.  The purpose of the uncut area is to encourage the conservation of invertebrates. Five of the meadows (Lower Hydes East, Lyon Field, Honey Slough West and East, and Half Yardes Meade) have all of their area harvested. Visitors are encouraged to visit Fryent Country Park and to keep a watch for potential problems.  Peak times are during dry evenings, afternoons and at weekends.  It is best to visit the harvest in groups of two or more. 

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Hay harvesting involves a number of stages:  
1. The hay (grass and other meadow flowers) is cut during dry weather.
2. The cut material is left on the ground for about 24-48 hours, during which time much of the internal water content of the material is lost.
3. Drying is facilitated by using a rotating fork to tedder (spread) the material, allowing air circulation and exposure to the sun.
4. When dry, the hay will be gathered into windrows (swathes of dried hay) prior to baling.  
5. If it rains at any stage before collection, the material must be spread and dried again.
6. The hay is transported to the other farm.

Sometimes the hay is harvested as haylage.  For this the hay is partially but not fully dried, but the material can be harvested from the fields more quickly than for hay.  It may be gathered loose. To increase the floristic diversity of the meadows, and to reduce Creeping Thistles, there may be an aftermath cut in the late summer or early autumn.  This produces less material than the main harvest and at Fryent Country Park, is often left on the ground rather than harvested.  Another operation that may be carried out later in the summer or during the autumn is chain harrowing.  This is like a comb drawn through the meadows and helps to break up the matt or thatch of dead vegetation at ground level. The hay harvesting has been made possible under an Environmental Stewardship agreement with Natural England. At Masons Field, a restoration project is working to restore the meadow with the introduction, or re-introduction of wild seeds, plants and bulbs.  The first hay harvest in recent times was taken in 2013. This is part of a Heritage Lottery Fund project to restore Masons Field. Barn Hill Conservation Group also survey the meadows in the second-half of June each year.  This is a good opportunity to learn flower and grass identification and learners are always welcome.

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The aftermath cutting of the hay meadows follows the hay harvest in July. This reduces the dominance of False Oat-grass and encourages finer grasses and flowers.  The cutting also reduces Creeping Thistle and Ragwort. 
The aftermath cutting should soon be followed by harrowing.  This ‘combs’ out and breaks up the matt of thatch at just above ground level.  Harrowing is aimed at increasing the number of small gaps at ground level, enabling the germination of seeds and an increase in the number of vegetative stems for those species that do not spread by seed.  Possibly it scarifies the ground slightly to enable germination from the buried seed bank.

A History of Saltcroft and the Saltcroft Seat

The Saltcroft seat was hand-made out of natural wood from Fryent Country Park by a BHCG volunteer at Roe Green Walled Garden between January and June 2004.
It was made to a one-off design, drawn up to use the wood available. The legs are blackthorn (from footpath clearance at Great Cowlays), with cross pieces of oak (coppiced from a plot on Barn Hill). The three seats are slices of poplar trunk, resting on bearers of ash, both woods recycled from part of a load of timber which had been fly-tipped near the top of Longdown.

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The seat is dedicated "to the Barn Hill Conservation Group volunteers who have helped to look after the paths, hedges, ponds, meadows and woods of Fryent Country Park for twenty years from 1984 to 2004". Although the seat itself was not ready in time, an inscription with this dedication was unveiled at the Group's 20th anniversary party on 4 April 2004.  
Because of the weight of the timber involved the seat was made in sections which could be slotted together. It was assembled on site at Saltcroft on 30 June 2004, and fixed together with wooden pegs and wood adhesive.  
Saltcroft is the name of one of the old fields on Barn Hill, an area which was original woodland in records of 1469. It was listed as a field at the time of a manorial survey in 1547. In the 1790's Saltcroft formed part of the Barnhill Estate owned by Richard Page of Wembley Park, and it was included in the landscaped parkland created by Humphry Repton for him in 1793. By the 1890's the Wembley Park estate had been acquired by the Metropolitan Railway Company as public pleasure grounds, and from 1895 until the early 1920's Barn Hill became a golf course. In 1927 it was purchased by Wembley Urban District Council as a public open space.  
Brent Council now manage the area as part of Fryent Country Park, and under the borough's biodiversity action plan the clearing at Saltcroft is maintained as grassland. There is always at least one BHCG Sunday project at Saltcroft in the autumn to cut the grass and to cut back any other encroaching vegetation.
The new seat is on a flat area of land near the top of the clearing, which was probably one of the greens on the golf course 100 years ago. The seat has already proved popular with dog-walkers who use a number of paths that cross Saltcroft. All being well, visitors to this part of Barn Hill should be able to enjoy the seat for many years to come, until it succumbs to the insects and fungi that have the final claim over all dead wood on the Country Park.  

Masons Field

Masons Field from Little Cherrylands, looking north over the new  ramp; the green lane passes across the ramp along the line of hedgerows

Masons Field is to the north east of Fryent Country Park. To the south of Masons Field is a green lane and the track of a gas pipeline, together with Brent Council allotments. To the north, east and west are houses and
their gardens.

Access to Masons Field is from the east along Larkspur Close or from the south over a new walker accessible ramp. This ramp is in Little Cherrylands and is approached from Valley Drive.
Masons Field in the twentieth century was a London Underground Sports Ground. This ceased in the 1990s when the field was split with part used for housing and the rest became an open space.

The Masons Field development project was led by Brent Council and Barn Hill Conservation Group. Funding was provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund (2011) and by Brent Council. 

View east from Masons Field showing Larkspur Close
View west from Masons Field showing Valley Drive

Illustrated History of Fryent Country Park, by Philip Grant.
A story in five parts.

Please note: The documents in this part are old. They have not been edited during the upgrade of this website so as to prserve the original work of the author. As a result, some of the links in the documents may not work.

History

FCP History 1/5

History of Fryent Country Park - Part 1 of 5 - by Philip Grant

History

FCP History 3/5

History of Fryent Country Park - Part 3 of 5 - by Philip Grant

History

FCP History 5/5

History of Fryent Country Park - Part 5 of 5 - by Philip Grant

History

FCP History 2/5

History of Fryent Country Park - Part 2 of 5 - by Philip Grant

History

FCP History 4/5

History of Fryent Country Park - Part 4 of 5 - by Philip Grant