Historic marshalling yard rejuvenated by biodiversity improvements

A former marshalling yard located in Feltham, London, owned by South Western Railway (SWR) has been rejuvenated as a result of the biodiversity improvement works that have been carried out in a joint project between SWR and Tilhill, a provider of nature-based solutions.

As part of the development of a new train depot, SWR engaged Tilhill’s services to assist with their plan to improve a previously disused 30-acre reservation surrounding the site, home to rare acid grassland and other wildlife, in a plan to enhance the site’s biodiversity and enable future community enjoyment.

The Feltham Marshalling Yards were built at the end of the First World War in 1916-18. In 1969 the yards closed due to the loss of train freight to road transport. The biodiversity project started in 2020 with the aim to enhance and protect trackside wildlife whilst contributing towards biodiversity net positive aims by 2030.

Tilhill’s Forest Managers carried out site improvement works including mixed species tree planting, habitat management and creation, the introduction of bird and bat boxes, mowing regimes and removal of shrubby species to encourage the rare acid grassland and provide homes for wildlife.

A case study spanning the timeline of the works and drawing on ecology reports of the site revealed pleasing results including an increase in bat species, with the Leisler bat recorded for the first time, growing numbers of breeding birds, such as five new breeding pairs of Wrens and an increase in invertebrates, whilst maintaining populations of reptiles on site.

The site is planned to open to the public in 2024 to create access for events, education, leisure, health, and wellbeing for the local community.

Amy Dickinson, Head of Sustainability at South Western Railway said: “It’s been great to see the site flourish under Tilhill’s care. We have been able to record over 470 species of invertebrates, 6 species of bats and seen bird species increase to 25 over the past two years.

“At South Western Railway, biodiversity is a key priority for us, and one of the main ways we seek to tackle climate change and protect nature. We also recognise just how important this site is in an urban area, and the benefits it can bring to local wildlife and the communities that surround it. We look forward to opening the site up for use so it can provide even more benefit for our communities in the future. You can find out more about our journey to biodiversity net positive by 2030, along with our other commitments to a better future on our website.”

Tom Bailey, Southern England Forest Manager at Tilhill said: “This is a great site and we are thrilled to see biodiversity improvements so early in the project. It has been a pleasure engaging with the SWR team.

“Management of the site to maintain and improve biodiversity will continue. The aim is to include more habitat piles, carry out further tree planting works and maintenance including thinning and bramble removal to increase diversity and reinvigorate the rare acid grassland community and improve habitats of fauna and flora for a range of wildlife.”