© 2014 by Barbara Copperthwaite.

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Part 2: Stop clearing Highbury Park!

I have an update following yesterday’s post on over-zealous clearing and path creation in Highbury Park. It turns out that much of the work is being done by someone working without authorisation and therefore illegally.

A large part of yesterday was spent on Twitter, Facebook, and emailing people, all to get to the bottom of what was happening. It was through this that the Chief Park Ranger, Alf, informed me that the work was not approved, and that he would be looking into it as a matter of urgency.

The day concluded with a chance meeting between myself, Alf, and the chairman of Highbury Park Friends, David (who is also a key player in the orchard community project). I showed them a couple of the areas I am chiefly concerned about. They showed me the evidence that the work has been done by a machete, to hack away at undergrowth and even tree branches, and to cut at ivy growing up trees (there is a completely false belief among some that ivy is a bad thing. It isn’t, it is fabulous for wildlife, and does little harm to trees. English Heritage once conducted an experiment into the damage caused by ivy on their buildings and concluded that it actually serves to protect them).

So the work is being done by a ‘lone wolf’, as it were. Please look out for him, he will be working alone, and may be wearing a high vis vest in order to look official. If you see anyone working alone please ask them what they are doing and who has given them permission. If that makes you feel uncomfortable then make a note of what he looks like and call the park ranger office immediately (their number is on the large park sign facing the High Street). By working together, we might just be able to stop him before he does even more damage.

Sadly, some of the clearing within the woods by the railway line may also have been done officially for the woodland play venture. I am all for children being encouraged to play in woodlands, and learn about nature. I do not understand why a clearing has to be created for this to happen, when there are plenty of spaces outside the woods where the main play could be staged. What are children learning about nature if one of the main lessons is that instead of respecting it and working within it, they can chop bits down, clear it, and generally bend wildlife to their will? Surely it is better for them to learn without having a detrimental impact on the nature they are being encouraged to study?

It seems the clearing around Henbury Pond is also so that children can do pond dipping. I understand that they need to be able to access the water safely, but quite why the clearing had to be so extreme is beyond me.

A park has to be a space for everyone, and I understand that. But it’s my belief that it already is that, and that further wholesale changes to it will be marginalising wildlife unnecessarily given that everyone is already so well catered for.

Changes must be made sometimes, of course. Trees that are dead or dying must be managed, other trees planted to replace them, etc. But I am as strongly against areas being cleared for the official park plan as I am against a rogue clearer acting on his own. For that reason, I will continue to speak out for nature in the park as and when I feel it necessary, despite my being told that other people may not agree with me. They are, of course, entitled to their opinion and to fight their corner as much as I am.