This is a guest post by Chrissie Aslett.
“If you go down to the woods today”……you may experience the same waves of emotion I did when I went to visit the ancient Crackley Woods near Kenilworth in June 2020. The tranquillity was wonderful, silence wrapping around me, the only exception being the calling of birds, the occasional tapping of a woodpecker, the trickling stream or crackle of twigs underfoot as I wandered through this beautiful woodland. The warmth of the day was muted by the overhead canopy of the many and varied trees, this was an exceptionally diverse and beautiful woodland.
Yet, there was another sound that became apparent as I headed towards the edge of the wood, the rumble of machinery. As I got closer I climbed the dividing fence that hid the scene beyond. It was appalling, absolute devastation, a desert, a dust ball. I was looking at the construction of a Haul road, part of the development of phase1 of High Speed 2 railway, a line stretching from London to Birmingham. Crackley woods had literally had its heart ripped, most of this beautiful, ancient woodland with all its diversity and ecosystems had gone…literally gone.
My time spent at Crackley Woods was beautiful but traumatic, staying in a protest camp I saw Veteran trees with the red circle of doom on them, and witnessed Ancient trees (over 400 years old) being felled and subsequently chipped. These beauties that suck the carbon from our atmosphere, that do so much to prevent flooding, so much for the biodiversity we know is essential to protect our planet, were being ripped up and destroyed without pause. It was utterly heart breaking.
By signing up to the Paris agreement in 2015 we pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050, but HS2 themselves have stated that this infrastructure will not be carbon neutral this century (Times, 2/20) surely a shocking disregard for our climate?
Crackley Woods is just one of many sites up and down the route of phase 1 where acres of precious countryside are earmarked for destruction and lost for ever. More precisely; 108 woodlands, 30 river corridors, nature reserves and 24 areas of Special Scientific Interest will be affected by HS2, this is a scar that will never heal.
There is a government call for electrification of the railway, for cleaner transport, a “levelling up of the North and South” But HS2’s business case is crumbling, it transpires that the divide between North and South will actually worsen (New Economics Foundation 3/2020), this same NEF report is now calling to simply improve the current rail lines. And with the cost of HS2 spiralling out of control, (the latest estimate being 110 billion, Public Accounts Committee March 2020) just imagine what we could do with that money post pandemic, how we could really build back green. The 4 billion pounds promised by the government to help tackle the climate crisis is laughable when contrasted with the cost of HS2.
We live in a different world now to the one when HS2 was planned, living during a pandemic has taught us the way we want to live our lives is not necessarily in the fast lane anymore, trains are empty as we have discovered working at home via Zoom, Google hangouts or Microsoft teams! We are loving more time with our families and have rediscovered our love of the countryside and the joy of being in the great outdoors.
Sadly, it is too late for Crackley Woods, the damage is done. But it is not too late for all the other stunningly beautiful woodlands that are currently under threat from HS2 destruction.
Please visit: www.stophs2.org for more information