Dear Readers, you might think that the trees that form part of an ancient woodland nature reserve would be safe from being cut down, except when it’s essential for the management of the area. Sadly, as I have learned, you would be wrong. Trees are often felled in urban areas because they are blamed for damage to nearby housing, even when the houses are built after the trees are fully grown, and even when such housing is extended right up to the treeline.
Those of you who have been following this blog for a while will know how passionately I care about the few small areas of ancient woodland that remain in North London, in particular Coldfall Wood. At only 14 hectares it provides a home for 26 species of breeding birds (including the lesser spotted woodpecker and song thrush, both Red List species), 2 species of bat, 106 species of beetle (including three Nationally Notable species), 56 species of spiders and 3 species of pseudoscorpion.
One of the species recorded is the very rare Lesser Glow Worm (Phosphaenus hemipterus).
However, being a rare ecosystem brings limited protection when insurance companies become involved. A local householder has been having subsidence problems with an extension that was built ten years ago. A number of two-hundred year-old oaks have already been destroyed without the knowledge of the local Friends group, whose role is to liaise with the council and to protect the wood. The plan was to fell a further seven trees on 1st March, even though the loss of the other trees hasn’t improved the situation. Fortunately we were able to get the felling postponed, but the trees still aren’t safe.
Our local Council, Haringey, is under pressure from the insurance company (AXA) to fell the trees – the council can be found to be negligent if it doesn’t act, and can be forced to pay for any works deemed necessary. However, there are lots of reasons other than trees that can cause subsidence to occur, including the soil composition, the geography of the area and the adequacy of the foundations of the building, and none of them have been explored. Our question is this: if cutting down a number of mature oak and hornbeam trees didn’t solve the subsidence problem, how will removing further trees help? Where does it end?
There is a meeting on 5th March at the council to discuss a strategic approach to the problem, and we hope that this will at least allow for further research into the causes of the subsidence. However, we also have a petition asking for the felling to be stopped, which has over 50,000 signatures already (link below). We are angry that trees and the habitat that they represent are considered so expendable at a time when councils, corporations and our national government all claim to be working to alleviate climate change. There is so much talk about protecting the environment, and yet greenspaces have never been under so much pressure. While we want to work constructively with the council and with the insurers, we have no intention of allowing the destruction of these trees.
The by-line for this blog has always been ‘ Because a community is more than just people’. That community includes the trees that provide much of the oxygen that we breathe, that shade us in the summer and that provide a home for hundreds of other species. If we don’t act now to give them the protection that they deserve, then when?
The link to the petition is here. Please feel free to sign and share. I shall let you know how we get on.
Coldfall Wood 7.30 p.m. August 4th 2020
Photo One By Urs Rindlisbacher – Majka GC, MacIvor JS (2009) The European lesser glow worm, Phosphaenus hemipterus (Goeze), in North America (Coleoptera, Lampyridae). ZooKeys 29: 35–47. doi:10.3897/zookeys.29.279, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8770508
All other photos by the author