Conservation activities on the Parkland Walk
The Parkland Walk Local Nature Reserve is the responsibility of Haringey and Islington councils. Both councils have produced management plans for the care of the Walk and all our activities are carried out with reference to those plans and entirely with the approval of the relevant conservation officer. The Parkland Walk is a vital link between a number of other green spaces notably Highgate Wood, Queen’s Wood and Finsbury Park.
By and large, the Friends of Parkland Walk concentrate on the parts of the Walk that are owned by the borough of Haringey, and this is the largest area. Islington, has a healthy volunteer group that operates under the guidance of Nature Officers based at Gillespie Park Ecology Centre.
Haringey Parks department has had its budget severly cut in recent years and its ability to perform many of the recommended targets outlined in its own management plan has therefore been severely reduced.
With this in mind, the Friends of the Parkland Walk have targeted three specific compartments along the southern section of the Walk that we believe are manageable with our own limited resources and volunteer support.
Haringey’s management plan for the Parkland Walk seeks to retain the woodland nature of the site, but where it is reasonably possible, to increase areas of meadow and glades so as to provide a greater diverstity of habitat. Within the wooded areas, there is also an intention to reduce the dominance of certain species, to introduce more varieties of species and to permit more light to penetrate the understory allowing for an increase in the number of species of flora and fauna. In many areas, the canopy has become so dense that it has had a detrimental effect on habitats at ground level, greatly reducing the spread of wildflowers and insects.
Florence Road meadows
This is the only area along the length of The Parkland Walk that retains some resemblance to the former condition of the embankments during its time as a railway. The UK has lost 97 percent of its meadows in the last 100 years. This decline is one of the top concerns for naturalists. One of our tasks is to ensure that this area of meadow is not lost, and by cutting back sycamore, holm oak and bramble, extend the meadow boundary east and west. This work is carried out after the bramble fruiting season has passed and stops in the spring when birds start nesting.
Holmesdale Road meadows
This bowl by the entrance to Highgate tunnels is a perfect haven for insects, butterflies and birds. It benefits from collecting the sun’s warmth and water that drains from the surrounding heights. Maintaining a balance between the trees, shrubs and meadow is key to protecting the habitat. The tunnels are also one of London’s major bat-roosting sites. Bats roosting here feed along the length of the Parkland Walk which they use as a corridor to insect-rich lakes in Finsbury Park and beyond. A small amount of bramble is useful as defensive cover and as a supply of food, but we aim to ensure that bramble doesn’t overcome the site and that the same goes for ash and sycamore trees which can be very aggressive in extending their reach.
The Wildlife Trail
This plot was previously of limited natural value and with the approval of Haringey Council we cleared parts to create a variety of different zones to provide conditions for different types of flora to establish and thus attract a variety of invertebrates and fauna. The area is generally open for the public on most days including bank holidays.
South-facing embankments behind Milton Avenue
Historically there have been continued efforts to keep this area open through coppicing. This was considered to be a contributory factor in the recorded presence of a population of slowworms. Sadly, as the coppicing programme collapsed and the trees took hold, there has been no recorded sighting of slowworms for over ten years. We have been active recently to try and reduce the density of cover to allow more light and heat onto the south-facing embankment in the hope of seeing a their return. To achieve this, we will also be placing ‘refugia’ around the area to attract more wildlife. These refugia may look like small sections of corrugated roof material, so if you do see them, you are welcome to peek underneath, but please replace them carefully as you found them.
Embankment at the north end of the Muswell Hill section
Eastern embankment near the entrance by Pure Gym at the bottom of Marks and Spencers car park. This is one of the few areas where water collects on the surface. We have been trying to establish water habitats but the area has been damaged on numerous occasions through vandalism and neighbouring households dumping their garden waste. All living things need water so water features are the single most helpful addition to benefit natural habitats.
Other conservation activities
Throughout the length of the Walk there are other ecological issues. As indicated above, much of this is focused around controlling the spread of dominant species that spread vigorously to the overall detriment of the Nature Reserve. Notably we are looking to limit the spread of bramble, sycamore, ash, laurel and holm oak. All of these species are extremely successful. At times it may seem as though our intervention is harsh, but it should be noted that theses species are well represented over the whole of the site and are hardy enough to hold their own.
A note on ivy on trees
We are often asked about our policy on ivy on trees and why it isn’t removed. The first thing to say is that ivy on trees is an entirely natural feature. It provides shelter for many creatures and as a late fruiter, also provides much needed nourishment to birds in autumn and early winter. Ivy doesn’t kill trees, though its presence may contribute to weak trees coming down in winter storms. It’s certainly the case that some trees such as silver birch, which doesn’t have the strength or lifespan of a sycamore or oak, will benefit from the removal of excessive ivy growth. In some circumstances where excessive ivy is contributing to reduction of light into the woodland understory we support the reduction by cutting ivy stems by between 30 and 60 percent depending on how thick the ivy is. This method causes the ivy to die off over an extended period of time, does not cause an immediate loss of habitat and leaves some ivy behind.
Trees adjacent to properties (Haringey)
Management plans can be found on Haringey and Islington council websites: