Monday 18 October 2021

Environment Monday - When is planting trees not a good idea?

 There has been a debate on social media concerning a scheme by Barnet Council to plant a wood on the Bunns Lane part of Mill Hill park. The Mill Hill Residents Association have taken umbridge at the absence of consultation with local people. Much to my surprise, the issue has become a hot local topic. The plan is to plant 500 native trees on the site - details are on the Barnet website

The idea is to plant the trees as a memorial to the Barnet residents who lost their lives during the pandemic. I participated in a similar scheme in 2001, when native trees were planted in 2001 to mark all babies born in the millennium year. We planted a Hornbeam tree in Woodcroft park for our son who was born in 2000. We were told that it would be well maintained and a plaque installed to commemorate the planting. I had a look at it today. Sadly like much else in Barnet, it has just been left to rot and fall into disrepair.

I do wonder what the new wood will look like in 20 years? Will there be a plaque? Will the fences be falling down? Will it be overgrown with brambles and strewn with litter? Those of you who are familiar with the nature of Barnet, will know that many of our horse chestnut trees are on the brink of death from a weevil infestation. Several years ago a large space of woodlands in Arrendene open space was cleared, to create more "meadowland". That is now once again overgrown with brambles. For me, the priority for planting should be the preservation of existing wooded spaces. These are the areas with existing wildlife populations, that use the areas for refuge and cover. Many of these are not currently being well managed. 

I have concerns that the drainage at the bottom of Mill Hill Park could result in the trees being damaged. The area is used in the summer by locals for picnics and sunbathing and in the snow by local children. A large are of the park was planted several years ago and this is now full of brambles and litter. 

I understand the desire to have a memorial. I just don't believe that Barnet have a long term commitment to maintain it.  The press release states that there is opnly funding for five years 'aftercare'. Their exact words

"A 5-year after-care plan will ensure the site remains a clean, safe space to visit."

 I have every expectation that this will end up like many of our other parks, unloved and unmaintained. If you compare the reality of my images of Woodcroft Park with the luscious image in the council press release, you too would be cynical. 

To me, this is grand gesture politics. Barnet are all too keen to make these big announcements, that make it look as if they care, whilst neglecting the existing and rather wonderful spaces we could have.

I'd like to see a proper green space strategy. By all means create new woodlands, but do this as part of an ongoing, well thought out plan to improve Barnets biodiversity. Mill Hill is strewn with such schemes. Have you seen the abandoned water feature in Mill Hill Park, where there was meant to be a 'wetland'? Have you seen the silted up Darlands Lake. Angel Pond has been overrun with an invasive plant. My message to Barnet Council. Please look after your existing assets properly. This is a wonderful scheme on paper, but in ten years, what will it look like, if it has been unmaintained for five years? I would support this if it was part of a proper long term memorial. It isn't. Like much else, it is an Arthur Daly scheme to do something that could be amazing on the cheap. 

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