The Heath & Hampstead Society fights to preserve the wild and natural state of the Heath; to maintain the character and amenities of Hampstead; and to promote the study of local history, natural history and conservation.

Society thanks the City for 30 years of caring for the Heath.

The City of London Corporation has been managing and preserving the Heath since 1989. During that time, the Society has been working closely with the City and it was only fitting to host a party to mark that anniversary and honour the relationship. The selection of photographs, courtesy of Diana Von R Photography, and the reprint of the addresses by Society Chair Marc Hutchinson and Karina Dostalova, Chair of the City’s Hampstead Heath Management Committee, recreate the festive ambience from that late summer evening.

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Sheep return to graze on Hampstead Heath

On 27 August sheep will return to Hampstead Heath to graze for the first time since the 1950s as part of a week-long trial.

The flock of five sheep, provided by Mudchute Park & Farm, are made up of Oxford Down and Norfolk Horn. They will graze at The Tumulus on the Heath, an ancient Roman monument managed by Historic England. Fencing has been installed at The Tumulus to protect the sheep who will be kept securely at the Heath’s nearby Kenwood Yard overnight.

This idea came up at a Heath and Hampstead Society lecture given by painter Lindy Guinness, who showed paintings by John Constable of cattle grazing on the Heath. This romantic vision happily coincided with the aim of Heath staff to experiment with grazing rather than tractors to manage the landscape. The Society is delighted to work with the City Corporation to find more sustainable ways of preserving the Heath.

If the pilot is successful, the City Corporation says animal grazing could be expanded to other areas of the Heath.

Grazing is known to play a major role in boosting species-rich wildlife habitats and reducing the use of machinery. Unlike mowing, grazing produces a mosaic of vegetation heights and types, improving ecological sites for species including amphibians, small mammals, invertebrates and wildflowers.

Volunteers from the Heath & Hampstead Society and Heath Hands will support the project by helping to monitor the sheep and engaging with visitors who want to know more about the pilot.

Shepherds in action

Watch The Society welcome the sheep!

How Hampstead Heath was Saved – a story of people power by Helen Lawrence

published by Camden History Society with the support of the Heath & Hampstead Society. The book can be bought from Camden History Society’s website.

“This book shows what can be achieved – Helen Lawrence has a fascinating story to tell.”
Griff Rhys Jones

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Society objects to conversion of police station into school

7 reasons why we are objecting again. Download as PDF or

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Protect Millfield Lane and Hampstead Heath from Urbanisation

In the Planning Report of our January newsletter you will find details of an application for a totally unacceptable development of five houses in a beautiful garden right on the edge of the Heath . The Society is supporting a petition launched by the Friends of Millfield Lane and we would encourage members to sign it https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/millfield2019

The Springett Lecture on Bird Migration

Bird Navigation: How do swifts find their way back to Hampstead, and how do pigeons home?

Delivered by Dr Rupert Sheldrake

At Rosslyn Hill Chapel on Thursday 17 October 2019

7:30 refreshments, 8:00pm talk. Admission is free to members of the Society and Marylebone Birdwatching Society and non-members can purchase tickets via Eventbright.

Every spring swifts fly from equatorial Africa across the Sahara desert and over Spain and France before crossing the sea to England. They often return to the same place they nested the previous year, where they meet their life-long mates. Racing pigeons can fly home from 600 miles away in a single day, even when released far from anywhere they have ever been before. How do they do it?

Despite decades of research, bird navigation remains unexplained. A magnetic sense may play a part and so may the sun’s position. Landmarks help when birds are near their destination and in familiar terrain. But something more mysterious is going on.

Dr Sheldrake will discuss possible explanations, and describe some of his own experiments carried out in conjunction with the Royal Dutch Navy, in which the pigeons’ home was on a ship that traversed the Atlantic.

Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D. is a biologist and author of more than 85 scientific papers and nine books, including The Science Delusion. He was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge and a Research Fellow of the Royal Society, and is now a Fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, in Petaluma, California, and of Schumacher College, in Dartington, Devon. He lives in Hampstead and has been a member of the HHS Heath Sub-Committee for more than 25 years. His web site is www.sheldrake.org

The Ladies Pond gets further international recognition.

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Society battles to save Heath plot from development.

Land left by Harry Hallowes, the so-called Hermit of Hampstead Heath, is in danger of being bought by developers. The charities to whom Harry left the land that he squatted for twenty years have decided to auction it to the highest bidder. Despite Harry’s known wishes that the land be left in its wild and natural state.

Harry’s plot is completely surrounded by the Heath. The Society is bitterly disappointed that the vendors of the plot have rejected a generous purchase offer made by the City of London, financially supported by the Society. Although strict covenants and planning laws prevent the plot being used except as a garden, there is always a risk that, if the land remains in private hands, it will become subject to attempted development, greatly to the detriment of the surrounding Heath.

The Society regards the plot as a natural part of the Heath, and feels very strongly that it should be publicly enjoyed as part of the Heath proper.

The Ponds film – Still Waters Run Deep

After two years’ work including a 12-month filming period, The Ponds – a documentary celebration of the year-round swimmers and the Hampstead Heath ponds – is ready for release.

Co-producers Patrick McLennan and Samuel Smith endeavoured to capture life at the unique swimming ponds over all four seasons, getting to know the regular swimmers and trying to capture the essence of the unique urban swimming spots.


“The cold water unites swimmers in a way you don’t often see in ordinary life,” said Patrick. “We’ve heard a lot of stories over the year: some funny, some sad, many of them heart-warming. There’s a shared bond over the pleasure and benefits of swimming in the ponds that brings the regulars together.

 

“Not for nothing have we subtitled the film the ‘healing waters of Hampstead Heath’.”

The Ponds tracks a group of different personalities at the Men’s, Ladies’ and Mixed Ponds, giving a revealing perspective of their lives plus an insight into what the ponds are all about, which you’d only otherwise get if you were a regular.

The Heath is captured in all its beauty, from the first shoots of spring when the water temperature hovers around 10-12ºC, through the heat and crowds of summer to the bleak onset of autumn and the shivering descent into winter.

“High points of the film include the excitement of the iconic Christmas Day Races and the winter swimmers breaking the ice,” said Patrick. “The snow scenes in particular have some heart-stopping moments.”

The Ponds (Still Waters Run Deep) will be shown at the Everyman Hampstead from early January. Check the cinema for screening details.