Headstone Manor Visit by FORCE with Harrow Council

On 28 January 2017 FORCE Trustees and members visited Headstone Manor in Harrow to exchange views and information with those caretaking the manor and environs from Harrow Council, and to establish a forward working relationship.  The River Crane, which the Friends of the River Crane Environment (FORCE) are actively involved with, has its source at Headstone Manor where it flows into Yeading Brook which ultimately flows into the Crane.


FORCE beside Headstone Manor and moat

Headstone Manor is surrounded by an ancient moat which is considered to be the source of the River Crane, though a total of three small streams enter the surrounding park with one providing the inflow to the moat.  The manor site has additional ancient buildings of barns and granaries. The site is surrounded by green land, a large swathe is dedicated to recreational sport fields and outdoor gym equipment for public use. Yeading Brook flows to the west boundary, slightly hidden by tree and scrub growth.

Heritage Lottery Funding (stage one) has recently been received by Harrow Council to enable Headstone Manor and its surrounding area to be improved for ecology, communities and education, to bring together ideas, links and approaches to complement each other.

Headstone Manor

Firstly, Nileema presented the history of Headstone Manor and plans for the Heritage Lottery Project to improve engagement opportunities with the community and new visitors  :

  • Headstone Manor was built in 14thC but has 17thC, Tudor and Victorian additions.  It was much larger but fire reduced it.
  • The Great Barn, huge even by today’s standards, is 16thC, built to house farming equipment and station wagons for Archbishop of Canterbury, landowner since 825.
  • The manor is being refurbished to tell ‘The Harrow Storey’ via local famous people. E.g. Mrs Beeton.  It will have a trail using the Harrow perspective of events.
  • The May Day festival is held annually in the land beside the moat.
  • The old granary was brought from an old farm, along with an old wooden milling machine. This building is moving to a learning centre, ‘young people friendly’ with eye level digital displays and changing exhibitions.  E.g. Harrow perspective of Great Fire of London.  Upstairs will be used for school activities.
  • The small 18thC barn will house an overview of Harrow’s history, a model of the Manor House and films of historical drama.
  • The ‘Boat on the Moat’ visitor centre with gift shop and tea room is opening in May 2017. It may also have a Community exhibition room.
  • Most of the HLF £3.6m grant for the buildings has already being spent.

The Old Granary

Community Plans

Desiree Mahoney manages Harrow’s community plans with respect to Headstone Manor.  The Heritage Lottery Fund may enable the hiring of an Outdoor Education officer for environmental groups, families and schools. The discussion brought forth several topics:

  1. Bird and bat boxes are being introduced. Contact has been made with LWT and with Jo Pecoreli, ZSL.  Another organisation is Green Corridor, based at Heathrow, who are very good at engaging young people.
  2. In 2013 the first Crane Conference was held.  A second is being planned focussing on Community.  It was suggested that the barn may be a good to host this and Harrow join it, especially given community is the focus of this HLF project.
  3. The 2017 Walks and Talks set up by FORCE was discussed, particularly those in Harrow.  FORCE annually has three walks from the source of the River Crane at Headstone Manor / Yeading Brook to where the Crane flows into the Thames to encourage local communities to use outdoor spaces and learn about their environment. Of particular interest is the walk starting in Roxbourne Park on 25 February. It was agreed that details would be shared with Roxbourne Park Friends which has 500 members, who may be interested in joining given they are particularly good at supporting the park.
  4. Given the success of this friends group, it is hoped to start a similar friends group for Headstone Manor.

Park and open lands

Mike Bradshaw walked the group around the moat, recreational fields and Yeading Brook to indicate plans for improvement.

The moat around Headstone Manor proved unfortunately to be quite polluted and smelly, with some resident fowl and minimal fish life.  This was due to the culverted water management system to the NE in Harrow Wealdon bringing in large volumes of surface water, some from sewers in extreme rain situations, and road run off.

Plans to improve the moat water include the building of sink pools to trap the water from the culvert before it enters the moat. The first pool will trap the silt from this water, whilst the second pool will cleanse the pollution from the water as it flows through reed beds before it flows into the moat. This will also manage the situations when great rainfall causes flooding of polluted overflow through the dual manhole system in place in Harrow.

Plans for the surrounding area include the daylighting of the culverted stream that enters the park near the sports huts under the path, which will require a bridge to be built. Secondly, an outdoor learning facility is to be created in the area to the west of the sports houses with pools created for ‘welly’ learning and dipping activities. Plus in the small wooded area some ancient trees would be released from the scrub and re-treeing made. All this is to be complemented by an indoor education facility. Additionally Yeading Brook is to be opened up downstream of the manor house alongside the path by removing obscuring trees and scrub to bring water features into the park itself for public enjoyment.

In Conclusion

Both FORCE and Harrow Council found the meetings beneficial in sharing ideas and mutual goals. Given the community aspect of Harrows plans, we agreed to positively seek ways to work together in future years.

FORCE found the vision of the developments and landscape plans really ambitious and exciting. The planned water based landscape at the Headstone site will also benefit the water quality and flows in the river downstream and thereby benefit the whole Crane catchment.  The scheme should also benefit from the works being undertaken by Thames Water, and through the Citizen Crane project, to monitor and improve the water quality at and above Headstone (as well as other sites along the Crane).  HNCF are collecting monthly data for Citizen Crane. http://www.cranevalley.org.uk/projects/citizen-crane.html

Although FORCE is entirely volunteer run, much is achieved by working closely with partners to deliver the objectives.  Key among these is the Crane Valley Partnership bringing in around £2m funding over the last five years. Other partners that help with delivering volunteer works include TCV, Green Corridor and LWT, whom may also be able to help Harrow.

Given Harrow are starting a Headstone Friends forum, the SWLEN web-site is a useful starting point. FORCE have links into SW London Environment Network (SWLEN) and the Hounslow Friends Forum, helping with the delivery of work so there may be opportunity to assist. 

Similarly FORCE has over 10 years of experience in delivering community benefits in an outdoor environment. It would be great if some of the approaches FORCE adopts in the lower Crane could also be developed upstream in Harrow.  Examples might include visitor use surveys; volunteer days; outdoor education projects; sign board interpretations, walks and talks; leaflets and maps.

Further information on Headstone Manor is at: http://harrowmuseum.org.uk/

Jane Satchwell
22nd February 2017

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