The wrong type of leaves

A few days ago, the government tried to create some green credentials for Hs2, by announcing a plan at the weekend to plant 2 million trees along the 180km length of the railway.  

Stop HS2 have been in touch with Steve Rodrick to find out what a tree scheme like this would really be like.  Steve is Chief Officer of the Chilterns Conservation Board. We discussed what effects the plantation scheme would have on all the areas which the proposed rail route would pass through.

Steve said “The public may envisage decent sized trees being planted. The vast majority (over 95%) would be less than 3 feet tall.”

He explained what the plantations would look like.  Most of these so-called trees will actually be densely planted shrubs, planted at one metre spacing.  But typically for every 10 trees planted only 1 or 2 will grow to maturity. So tree and shrub planting is often as dense as 10,000 to the hectare (a hectare is about the size of a rugby field).  By the time they reach maturity these numbers can be down to 100 – 200 per hectare.  If you can picture 60 trees spread over a football field, that gives you an idea of what the planting will look like after a few years.

Tall trees – like oaks and ash – will need to be planted at least 50 feet from the tracks, to avoid the risk of trees or branches falling onto the line itself, or the associated wires and gantries.  Large leaved species can’t be planted because they have the wrong type of leaves.

And there will be need to be planting on both sides of the line.

When it comes to choosing the sites, many of the trees will be put on corners of fields split by the line, and alongside access roads to the railway, not as part of a landscaping scheme.  Further, the plantations will need to complement the local landscape.  Steve said “Right tree on the right site. In some places lots of new trees in an otherwise relatively tree-less landscape may not be the right thing to do. We must avoid thinking all trees are good.”  

We discussed whether native trees should be used – Steve’s view was “Right species in the right a place. Native only near ancient woods, for example. In other places conifers and non native species might be better choices. Native species won’t provide much screening for 5 months a year.”

And, lets not forget, we can’t replace the ancient woodlands, defined as being at least 250 years old.  Finemere Woods, an area of ancient woodland in North Buckinghamshire, will be directly affected by HS2.  Like the Woodland Trust said “it is important that this isn’t seen as a token gesture in what could potentially see the loss and fragmentation of existing woodland habitats, which are of far higher conservation value and in some cases irreplaceable.”

Two million trees makes a good green headline.  But once again, the reality isn’t so pretty.

6 comments to “The wrong type of leaves”
  1. i believe we should try and protect as many trees and species as possible and that where this is not possible, new foliage and trees which are as sympathetic to those lost be planted. but how far do we carry this argument ?
    i have a eucalyptus tree in my garden in hertfordshire. should i cut this down and replace it with something else more native. should we slaughter all the grey squirrels as they arent native either. how far back to we go ? at one time the whole country was covered in trees. we certainly need more then we have at the moment.

    what makes your case not greenwash anyway ? I could say that people are swallowing yours ! by the way I am playing devils advocate here you are entitlled to your views as i am to mine

  2. So 2,000,000 planted equals a maximum of 400,000, maybe just 200,000 growing to maturity.

    Then of course you have to take away all the trees which will have to be cut down to build the thing. That is of course a 100-mile long strip (including other things like hedgerows) which will be 100 metres wide for construction purposes.

    You only get the net affect when you take off this number. I suspect that number will be in the Environmnetal Impact Analysis.

    What’s that? Oh yes of course, they are going to consultation without completing an Environmental Impact Analysis aren’t they? Silly me!

    • so trees and foliage arent green either now according to you ! if this plan only means that they are going to replace only what they take away I would agree with you that this is a ruse !!! however if many more trees and bushes were planted then lost then this counter counter any higher co2 that might be generated.

      i have heard of the famous wrong type of leaves on the line are we now going to have the wrong kind of trees ? and maybe we can get the line to avoid finemere woods.

      • Absolutely not. Sympathetic and environmentally sensitive landscaping is vital for any construction project. 2 million new trees will not replace the dio diverse habitats and ancient ecology which will be destroyed by HS2. There is absolutely the wrong kind of trees in the wrong location – look at how Rhododendrons have damaged the natural environment in the UK.
        Please refer to the experts on this ie; The Woodland Trust Responding to the tree-planting plans, a spokeswoman for the Woodland Trust said: “Whilst the planting of two million trees is a great contribution towards increasing the UK’s minimal native woodland cover, it is important that this isn’t seen as a token gesture in what could potentially see the loss and fragmentation of existing woodland habitats, which are of far higher conservation value and in some cases irreplaceable.
        Lacking indepth knowledge of ecology means people are doing exactly what we are predicting – swallowing the green wash of HS2.

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