Flora & Fauna
As a relatively small urban recreation ground with a strong sporting component, Abbey recreations ground's capacity to support a diverse range of wildlife species and habitats is limited. However, the northern side of the ground adjoins the Merton Park Green Walks which is rich in wildlife.
The vegetation of the Merton Park Green Walks consists of typical wasteland species, with sycamore dominating the upper canopy. Beneath this is a developing understory with ash, silver birch, hawthorn, cherry, plum, grey willow and goat willow. Also present is a mixture of snowberry, bramble, ivy, and buddleia.
The ground layer includes many common species with false oatgrass, ground ivy, creeping thistle, great mullein, nettle, black horehound, garlic mustard, common figwort, ribwort plantain, bindweed and mugwort.
The western section of the Green Walks is a mosaic of grassland, tall vegetation and bramble scrub with occasional small oaks and ash trees. The grassland areas are quite diverse, probably because of the low fertility typical of such old railway land. They include rats-tail, red fescue, false oatgrass, Yorkshire fog, common vetch, ribbed melilot, common knapweed, creeping thistle, wild onion, yarrow, mugwort, Canadian goldenrod, Michaelmas daisies and bridewort.
The most northerly section of the walk is made up of a mosaic of open grassland, tall herbaceous vegetation and scrub with some ash, hazel, hawthorn, alder, birch and yew. It now provides nesting opportunities for small birds such as the long tailed tit.
In 2010, with help from Microbee, bird, bee, bat and hedgehog boxes were placed along the Green Walks. In 2013, with a Lottery Fund grant, and technical assistance from Microbee, WERA constructed a small seasonal pond and surrounded it with wildflower meadow turf. The pond provides a source of water for wildlife for a few months of the year but is too small to retain water beyond the end of February most years. The pond due to be reconstructed in 2021.
Several hundred whips of native species have been planted alongside the path that runs from Melbourne Road to the tramline with the aim of creating a hedge to replace the disintegrating wooden fencing.
The seeding plants often attract 'charms' of goldfinches in summer which may breed on the site as they are also present in the breeding season. Other birds likely to be using the site for breeding are the migratory lesser whitethroat and blackcap and residents like the dunnock, greenfinch, blue tit, long tailed tit, song thrush and blackbird. Swifts and house martins feed over the site benefiting from its invertebrate population.
The small triangle of woodland has long tailed tits, blackcaps and also whitethroats probably breeding. Large numbers of rooks can be seen flying over the length of the Green Walks in the morning and evening as they commute to their feeding grounds. Butterflies seen on the site include holly blue, speckled wood, small tortoiseshell, orange tip, small white, peacock, meadow brown and small or Essex skippers. It is likely that most of these butterflies are breeding on the site.
Grasshoppers are more often found in the meadow areas such as behind the garages. Apart from the Honeybees, five species of Bumble bees and a similar number of solitary bee species are regularly seen. Stag beetles are also found in the area.
Little is known of the small mammals present but it is likely that bank voles and wood mice are present as well as foxes. Pipistrelle bats have been observed feeding over the area at dusk.
Frogs and smooth newts breed annually in nearby ponds whilst toads have also been seen there.