Warren Farm is an unexpected gem, an unofficial wild space close to the River Brent and the Grand Union Canal Walk in Ealing.
This former farm became a council-run sports centre in the mid-1960s, a popular venue for local schools. However, after years of neglect, the centre was eventually closed and abandoned.
Nature was quick to reclaim the former sports pitches, transforming them into gorgeous wildflower meadows. Skylarks now sing overhead, kestrels hover, and come dusk, owls swoop silently for prey.
Having followed the Grand Union Canal Walk up from the Thames, I accessed Warren Farm from the corner of Trumpers Way W7, as it curves around an industrial estate.
A public footpath marks the south-eastern border of this huge 61 acre (24.9 hectare) site, and other unofficial paths meander through the meadows. The buildings of the small sports centre are battered and derelict. The parking spaces now delineated by strips of mossy grass. Nature is reclaiming these as well.
For a non-local, stepping into Warren Farm can feel like trespassing into a forbidden space. I’d jumped a gate to get in, but everyone I met was friendly. A family were flying a kite, couples were walking dogs, and a young woman was leading a horse by its reins.
The threat to Warren Farm
Visit Warren Farm while you can, as Ealing Council plans to wipe the wildlife from this precious site. The council intends to rent Warren Farm to QPR football club, for 200 years. The club would pay only a peppercorn rent (a very small charge, often no more than a single pound). QPR intend to develop the site as football pitches with 555 parking spaces, while charging the public for limited access.
Before development, 180,000 cubic metres of landfill will be used to heighten and level the former meadows, netting QPR a handy £4 million.
Warren Farm is designated as Metropolitan Open Land (equivalent to Green Belt). However, the council argues the landscape will still feel ‘open’, even if cleansed of wildlife and nature.
A local community group, Hanwell Nature, has recently secured a Judicial Review of Ealing Council’s decision to forego an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before development (April 2020). Hopefully this will save Warren Farm as a wildlife-friendly, green space, open to all.
If any development does take place, it is vital that the wildlife value of Warren Farm is conserved – we need places like this more than ever.
Update May 2020
Campaigners have succeeded in gaining a Judicial Review of Ealing Council’s decision to avoid an official Environmental Impact Assessment before the destruction of Warren Farm. QPR have also stepped back, saying they will find an alternative location for their training pitches.
However, Ealing Council still aims to return Warren Farm to a barren sports ground and QPR say they’ll help. People need nature and sport; the council needs to find an alternative solution. For now, the fight to save Warren Farm continues.
Hanwell Nature http://www.hanwellnature.com/
Warren Farm and the value of nature – Sophie Leguil https://naturanaute.com/2019/07/31/warren-farm-and-the-value-of-nature/