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Rare dragonfly ‘extinct in London’ is spotted on Hampstead Heath

Wildlife returning after dam work as wood mice, grass snakes and reed warblers make Heath their home

10 November, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

The white-legged damselfly [PHOTO: Charlie Jackson]

A RARE dragonfly that was thought to be extinct in London has been found zipping across the surface of the Highgate boating pond – a year after the controversial dam-strengthening project was completed.

The discovery of the white-legged damselfly comes as part of a wider survey which has been monitoring the effects that the £21million scheme has had on the open space at Hampstead Heath. Heath workers have also found populations of creatures such as wood mice, grass snakes and reed warblers.

Ecologist Adrian Brooker said: “We thought the Heath would recover in this way and it is better off now than it was before. The Heath land has always been managed and, a year on from the work being completed, we can see the effect it has had.”

Bob Warnock and Adrian Brooker

Engineers spent two years building new dams and shoring up banks across both the Hampstead and Highgate chain as part of the controversial work, which faced widespread opposition among protesters who said it would scar the Heath. Opponents claimed the work was unnecessary and would damage the common land, but Heath managers, the City of London, argued it was vital due to legislation over flood safety.

Mr Brooker added that engineers and Heath Rangers had created new habitats for toads, frogs and newts. Kingfishers are regularly spotted, while in the bird sanctuary area, north of the boating pond, the rare reed warbler is nesting.

Other tests reveal water quality in the pond chains is also improving. The newly formed “island” on the boating pond is still closed to public access, with staff monitoring how many birds use it to nest and how well grass land is recovering. It has now been fenced off since the diggers left the land and there are no plans in the immediate future to open it to the public.

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