Woodchip footpaths at the Southfields Recreation Ground, London (UK)

In 1999, the Council's Ranger Service of the Southfields Recreation Ground noticed the presenceof Stag beetles in a part of the park that had been planted some years ago with several native tree species (Cherry, Oak, Ash, Birch, Hazel and Hornbeam).

The Council's Ranger Service decided to install a woodchip path through the area in order to improve public access. Woodchip was used as it allowed to top up the path easily with deliveries from the Council's Tree Service when they prune the street trees across the borough. The path is about 85 m in length, about half a metre wide and about 30 cm deep. It was when digging out the line of the path in 1999 that the rangers came across several Stag Beetle larvae. Larvae were moved to other parts of the nature area and put in the ground in groups, at the same depth they were found, with woodchip underneath and aournd them, and a pile of woodchip on top. The rangers also created some small loggeries, and have continued to pile up the woodchip into heaps since then.

The path and woodchip heaps were topped up with woodchip 2-3 times a year, with a mixture of deciduous street and park trees. When the rangers dug out the woodchip path in February 2005 they located 750 Stag Beetle larvae. They moved the larvae to the existing woodchip heaps and piled up a lot more of woodchip on top again. The heaps are in a relatively undisturbed part of the nature area and it is shaded by some young Ash, Cherry and Birch to try to keep the woodchip damp. It forms a circle and connects up with another pile of Poplar tree trunks, in an attemps to provide the larvae with a broader range of habitat and food sources.

This is a good example of habitat improvement for Stag Beetles in suburban areas, taking advantage of pruning waste. We thanks Pat Robinson, ranger from the Ealing Parks and Countryside Service, and Maria Fremlin for this story and for granting permit to include the pictures below.

The woodchip heap tho which larvae were moved (Photo: Pat Robinson).


Larvae and one male Stag Beetle found while digging out the woodchip path (Photo: Pat Robinson).