Beddington Farmlands Bird Group
History 1860 - 1940
Sewage irrigation at Beddington began in 1860. At that time, Croydon was a country market town surrounded by open countryside and was separated from London by sheep grazing fields. Marshy fields at Beddington were host to Yellow Wagtails and other farmland birds, breeding amongst heavy horses and the plough.
The earliest form of sewage treatment was by land irrigation. Between 1902 and 1912 sedimentation tanks and percolating filters were constructed to treat the sewage flow before the effluent was passed on to the land and finally discharged into the River Wandle. By 1932 increasing sewage flows necessitated the construction of additional filters and an activated sludge plant.
Our knowledge of the bird life in these early years is largely due to the efforts of three observers. In 1932 Len Parmenter made a series of monthly counts logging all the birds he saw. During the year he recorded 75 species and his counts suggest a wintering population of between 6000 and 8100 birds. From 1933 onwards Philip Ratcliff and Geoffrey Manser made regular visits to the farm until the outbreak of war.