HS2 and Ancient Woodland: When Greener Transport isn’t Green

This is a guest post by Oliver Newham, Senior Campaigner for the Woodland Trust.

For those of you planning to spend time exploring the outdoors this summer, having a local woodland to enjoy can be a real blessing. A habitat teaming with life, rich in flora and fauna, with all the splendour nature can offer, these unique environments soon become integral parts of local communities for generation after generation.

At the Woodland Trust we not only work with others to plant more native trees and increase our woodland coverage, but we look to inspire everyone to enjoy and value woods and trees. As well as this we work to protect our native woods and the wildlife they contain from a wide variety of threats.

Currently, one of the most significant threats to the UK’s ancient woodland* is the proposed High Speed 2 rail link, the route for which cuts through the heart of our countryside and in turn many of our precious ancient woods.

On the phase 1 stretch from London to Birmingham, at least 21 ancient woods, covering a combined area of 409ha, face direct loss and destruction. A further 12 are also at risk from noise, vibration, and further associated infrastructural developments such as roads. Significant loss will also occur on phase 2 of the scheme**.

To help deal with this threat we have produced a toolkit to help communities along the route to defend their ancient woods. The toolkit shows how to build woods and trees effectively in to plans and campaigns, while at the same time explaining the impact on wildlife.

We are also producing additional factsheets which explain key issues in more detail and respond to specific occurrences such as the draft environmental statement with guidance and advice. Again you can find out more on our website.

So do download the toolkit, come and see us at the Convention (we are speaking, have a stall and will lead a workshop on how to respond to the draft Environmental Statement) and get in touch with your concerns. We really are here to help.

* Ancient Woodland is land that has been continuously wooded since 1600. The unique undisturbed soils and ecosystems found in these sites form the UK’s richest land habitat. It provides a home to a host of rare, protected and threatened wildlife – 256 species of conservation concern are associated with ancient woodland*; species that are slow to react to change, find it difficult to adapt, and are not mobile enough to move to other locations to survive. Ancient woodland now accounts for just 2% of our land area, a loss fuelled by the fashion for planting fast growing conifers in an industrial age. Once destroyed, it can never be replaced.


** 12 ancient woods face destruction on phase 2, with a further 22 close enough to the  line to be indirectly at risk.

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