The Withey Beds is a Local Nature Reserve, located between Moor Park, the Metropolitan tube line, river Colne and Moor Lane. It has a variety of habitats from marshes and wetlands to grassland that supports a wide variety of wildlife. It is a small reserve covering about 20 acres or 7.7 hectares, lying in a green belt, linking Croxley Common and Hampermill Lake. The entrance is on the east side of Moor Lane just north of Sandy Lodge Road.
The Withey Bed site was purchased by the council in 2004 to protect the wildlife in the reserve, via a Compulsory Purchase Order. The original site was under threat of becoming a pig farm. The Friends of the Withey Beds was formed to help support the reserve, which is managed by the local council. The resident’s association support and are represented on the Friends of the Withey Beds Committee.
The Withey Beds get their name for the old English for willow. Willows were grown in the marshy area for coppicing and were an important part of the local economy. The cut willow stems were used for basket making and witheys are still used for this purpose today.
Several projects have completed since the reserve was formed, the abandoned WWII pill box has been converted into a bat roost, a living willow hide has been built along with a boardwalk and a number of bird boxes have been placed on trees in the reserve. Among the birds seen are kites, kestrels, kingfishers and woodpeckers along with a wide variety of wildfowl.
In the past couple of years Dexter cattle, a mall and friendly breed, have been grazing on the Withey Beds in spring and summer, helping to keep the vegetation in check and playing an important role in the ecology of the site.
Guided walks and talks are held at the Withey Beds in late spring and early summer and the Friends of the Withey Beds have a stand at the Rickmansworth Canal Festival. Unfortunately, these have had to be cancelled this year due to the Corona pandemic.
Three Rivers District Council has received Green Apple Awards for the environmental work at The Withey Beds and the resident’s association are pleased to support the reserve.