The HS2 threat to Ancient Woodland

A few months ago, when the  government announced plans to sell off Forestry Commission land, there was a huge public outcry with the Woodland Trust heavily backing the campaign.  It was described as a policy of “environmental vandalism”, and the Government subsequently changed their mind.

Meanwhile,  people across the country are ignoring the threat to ancient woodland from HS2.

According to the Woodland Trust’s evidence to the Transport Select Committee, 21 ancient woods will be directly affected by the building of HS2, but they say no mitigation exists for the loss of this ancient woodland.

Ancient woodland has been describes as Britain’s equivalent to the rainforest, a vital part of this country’s biodiversity.  It is defined as having been continually wooded since 1600, and half has been lost since the 1930s.

And the Woodland Trust says that another 27 ancient woodland sites is at risk, as it is within 200m of the proposed route.

The Woodland Trust is scathing of the idea that the planting of new trees will make up for the loss of ancient woodland.  One of the special features of ancient woodland is the centuries of undisturbed soils: almost be definition, new plantings involve disturbing soil.

The threat to ancient woodland posed by HS2 is one of the many reasons why the possible 72m land take of the proposed railway matters.

But Hs2 Ltd has expressed interest in land beyond the 72m strip of “vegetation management”

Alison Munro, in a letter to Bucks Free Press last week, the one we quoted yesterday, said

“And we would encourage landowners with land adjacent to the line to adopt similar approaches and to avoid planting large deciduous trees.”

Does HS2 Ltd want to influence the management of woodland, like that owned by the Woodland Trust, outside the 72m strip?  This certainly implies they do.

If you are concerned by this threat to ancient woodland, please sign the Stop Hs2 petition, sign the Woodland Trust petition on HS2 and take part in the consultation.

And especially if you live in an area not directly affected by HS2, please write to your MP expressing your concerns about the project.

7 comments to “The HS2 threat to Ancient Woodland”
  1. also apparently young saplings and trees actually absorb more co2 when they are growing then do mature trees. and even the trees in the new forest were new at some point. trees are one of our greatest resources for many reasons especially because they are renewable. as i said above it is a matter of scale, if it is a few trees at the edges of a wood that is regrettable but isnt thw whole wood. and any trees cust will be replaced, albeit not in exactly the same place

  2. We should value and protect our ancient woodlands.

    Epping Forest is a prime example.

    For centuries it provided hunting grounds for kings; more recently local people grazed cattle and exercised their “lopping rights” to cut branches for fuel and animal food.
    As London began to expand more and more the margins were nibbled away for farming, for building development and large areas were enclosed to provide private parks for local landowners.

    The commoners ‘ rights were nearly lost and the Forest with them, until an Act of Parliament transfered the ownership and future management of what was left to the Corporation of the City of London.

    (Hainault Forest a few miles to the East was not to survive the ruthless mid Victorian desire for “progress” and development of the “waste” and was “deforested”, stripped of most of its woodland and turned over to horticulture and later on,much of it to housing estates.)

    “Opened” by Queen Victoria , Epping Forest has been jealously guarded ever since and added to as enclosures deemed illegal were returrned to public access, so when a road or even a turning place for trolley buses would be built in this densely populated area of South West Essex, an equivilent area of land had to be donated.

    When the North Circular Road was reconstructed and when the M.25 was built through the northern end of the Forest, there was great concern at the loss of land and the degrading of the forest environment.
    The Upshire villagers’ objections were overridden and the M.25 was built through the ridge which separates the Valleys of the Lee and Roding.- but the 6 lane motorway was bridged ; it was a “cut and cover” job and now, two decades or so later, the Bell Common above appears much as it did before and the Forest, far from being divided, has been extended as large areas have been added, much more than the area taken.

    And remember, the finished motorway is roughly twice as wide as a HS twin track railway.

    A natural woodland, left to itself, will not only regenerate, but, if allowed, will spread out from its margins and colonise fresh ground. If we were to stop farming, grazing, cutting and concreting over the surrounding land, the
    huge areas would revert to scrub and eventually to woodland.

    Of course our woods ,ancient and deliberately planted alike, have been managed. If we look at old photographs we can be struck by the difference. Tree trunks stand lopped back to the crown, whole areas of beech and hazel are cut down to ground level, coppiced to produce another crop of long straight poles for furniture,as in the Chilterns, or for hedging or building. The woods were a workshop and a factory, producing timber, charcoal, fuel, fodder, grazing, game and supported a whole food chain of creatures, despite human influence. Even clear felling produced glades and a variety of different plant and animal as light penetrated and the regeneration process continued. The point is, that it was not static.The “ancient” trees if not harvested , would eventually decay and fall, but their seeds would have produced new generations…

    A reasonable conclusion is that as the M25 did not destroy the Forest, (nor did the M40 destroy the whole of the woodlands as it bypassed Wycombe, nor the A 413 dual carriageway section just below Shardloes destroy the park and woodlands), the claims that a new railway would “Destroy the Chilterns” are equally far fetched.

    In the Chilterns Soc. DVD Voiced by the lugubrious Geofrey Palmer, every possible ill effect is talked up. Every “might”happen becomes “will happen”. Take footpaths; some of those illustrated are clearly farm access tracks and will need reinstating. In a suitably dismissive tone, he mentions”green tunnels”, which enable paths to be rebuilt across a cutting – “cut and cover”- and the land to be restored to its previous level.

    He misquotes the completed dimensions and implies the outdated supposition that the track bed would be set amid a desolate,bare strip devoid of any ground cover, an area equivilent to Manchester…but it’s when he gets into speculating on the train passing speeds in tunnels (wrong) and the braking distances of trains yet to be designed, that he really puts his foot in his mouth. As an expert in these matters(!) he reminds us that “advanced signalling systems will be required”. I’m glad you mentioned that, Geofrey. We very nearly came unstuck there.
    Likewise, when it comes to “possible vibration” to be felt above tunnels. There is mention of this and possible alternative measures to prevent it, all in the technical documents.

    Pictures of “One of the busiest sections of the M25, recently widened to four lanes”,( surely in its self an answer to those who claim that we don’t need to travel so much from now on,) is accompanied with a hushed voice over that suggests that the motorway is some sort of sacred ancient monument.

    At a time that engineers are excavating the Crossrail tunnel through the complexities of subterranean London while others are building base line tunnels beneath the Alps, his doubts about this seem rather simplistic, to say the least.

    Multiplying his quoted cost per mile to the bare distance from Euston to central Birmingham is very crude; it Includes the cost of rebuilding Euston which is due anyway, whether or not HS2 goes ahead, and also chooses to regard the route to Birmingham as the whole thing, whereas HS2 is just as important as a bypass to allow long distance services beyond the Midlands to avoid congestion and reach the “classic tracks ” to continue their journey, long before phase two is added, just as happens in mainland Europe..

    Mr. Palmer is a well loved and accomplished actor and a devoted and passionate protector of his beloved Chiltern Hills, but sadly is let down by his script on this occasion.

  3. There’s a piece in our local paper this week saying that a colony of rare bats in Finemere Wood could stop HS2.

    It says that Bechstein’s Bats are one of Britain’s rarest mammals and their roosting and maternity sites are protected under EU and UK wildlife laws. They have the highest possible level of statutory wildlife protection in the UK. It is against the law to damage, destroy of obstruct their habitats or roosts.

  4. We can’t change the past and stop the WCML and M6 from destroying woodland, but we can try to stop it happening it the future,

    The key is in the name, “ancient woodland”, new tree that are planted now will not become ancient for centuries, and they do no make up for what is lost.

    This is why I say HSR is an inflexible technology, why cannot the HS2 route simply avoid these precious areas? Because it must be as straight as possible in order to gain enough speed to make to 20min time saving, if it turns to avoid woodland it will fail to make any time saving at all.

    The minimum turning radius of HSR if 7200m compared with 1800m for the ‘classic’ rail, and just 350m for Maglev.
    So if you want green technology, and save the ancient woodland, vote Maglev not HSR.

    • Luke, just what is your fixation on maglev about? It would be far more damaging than hs2 and considerably uglier on the eye. It’s hardly going to win over people who are currently anti hs2.

    • so you think you could construct a maglev that somehow managed to avoid every tree on the route from birmingham do you ? and again you would force people to change to another train at the end of the maglev and you couldnt therefore run through services anywhere. give it up luke. any maglev i have seen is on a huge concrete viaduct. i suppose you could paint it green and pretend it is !

      as far as this subject is concerned what does at risk mean ? any loss of ancient woods is regrettable but how many trees are we talking about. i am sure the route could be adapted further to minimise loss.

      the problem as i have said before is that if you stop hs2 that it isnt the end of the story. if you upgrade exisitng routes you will lose greenery and shrubbery and ditto for new or enlarged motorways. unless the famed broadband saves us all by keeping us at home it is inevitable that need for travel will continue. i cant help but feel that the rp2 scenario is subterfuge for trying to stop hs2 and have the building works effect somebody somewhere else.

  5. Just by co incidence, I was happening to look at the Woodland Trust website. Its quite good. I was looking at an interactive aerial view of an area stretching from Morcambe through to Carlisle and further north to the southern tip of the Scottish Lowlands – in effect the M6/WCML corridor up here.

    There are hundreds of woods highlighted, and the site gives tips on what to wear or take with you when you visit…..the site encourages you to do that.

    What they dont tell you is how to get there in the first place…..bearing in mind this is a UK wide organisation I would have thought that this would be important. Of course the logical thing to do if you happened to live outside the area would be to travel by car up the M6, or by train up the WCML which we all agree is a lot more greener. But of course the M6 and WCML when built would have had to go through some woodland originally when built.

    So ….visit the woods , come by train…..

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