The Fairlop gravel works site on Painters Road, Fairlop (map; OS grid reference TQ462897) is one of the top birding sites in the London Borugh of Redbridge and although access is restricted now while the works are taking place, the land is in the process of being restored into a Local Nature Reserve.
The site has a history of use for gravel extraction, but this is coming to an end. It has been agreed that the area will be designated as a nature reserve on completion of the infilling of the site.
The site is currently devoted to gravel workings, but there are plans to plant a reedbed, to create a water scrapes and to improve Seven Kings Water (which runs along the site), to create a nesting site for Sand Martin and Kingfisher, and to plant more wet woodland and to protect the habitat favoured by the Brown Hare.
In spite of the heavy gravel workings, the site is a wonderful local birding spot. It is home to the borough’s only winter flocks of Lapwing (up to 550 birds) and Golden Plover (up to 150 birds) and also has the borough's largest population of wintering Snipe (usually well over 20), with the occasional Jack Snipe. It is also the only location in the borough for wintering Green Sandpiper (up to eight, and usually at least two on site for 10 months of the year). It also has good numbers of wintering wildfowl, and is the only site in the borough at which Shelduck are regularly seen.
The site is also good for raptors, with Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Little Owl and Hobby all regularly seen and Goshawk, Red Kite, Merlin, Peregrine, and Buzzard all seen in the past 12 months.
It is the only site in the borough for breeding waders and the major site for migrating waders. Last year, two pairs of Little Ringed Plover and three pairs of Lapwing bred. Waders seen on passage include Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Green Sandpiper.
Fairlop gravel workings is one of the best sites in the borough for migrating passerines. During 2009 up to 50 Wheatear, 50 Whinchat, 50 Yellow Wagtail, several White Wagtail, 2 Rock Pipit and 2 Water Pipit were seen. It is also the only place in the borough where Sedge Warbler breed, and one of only two or three sites where Reed Warbler breed.
Other birds include wintering Stonechat, Woodcock and Water Rail and occasional passage Spotted Crake.
Brown Hare, otherwise virtually unknown in the London area, breed on the site.
(Information needed, please)
Directions The nearest station is Barkingside, on the London Underground’s Central line. Just north of the station a track goes east, then south the east again to Aldborough Hatch, then go north on Aldborough Road North and bend right into Painters Lane.
Because the site is still an active gravel working, access is currently restricted, although the site manager is looking into building a temporary platform for birders to scop the site.
There are currently no on-site facilities, but proposals for the site include a small car park, bird hide, walkway and observation blinds.