Our mission can be summed up in three parts:
- Protection and enhancement
- Education and understanding
- Practical help
These come from our constitution, which states we are established to:
- Promote the conservation, protection and improvement of the Parkland Walk and environs
- Advance public education about all aspects of the Parkland Walk including the flora and fauna
- Provide facilities for recreation and leisure time occupation which are in the interest of social welfare and with the object of improving the condition of life for the users of the Walk.
The protection of the Parkland Walk from damage and loss was the main purpose of the Friends of the Parkland Walk when it was formed in 1988. Since then we have aimed to be a ‘critical friend‘ to Haringey and Islington councils who own the walk, helping when things could be done better and using all reasonable means to stop unwise things happening to the Walk. Our position on key issues that affect the Walk are outlined below.
Protection and enhancement
We are wholly in favour of the designations of the land as Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) , a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) , Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (Metropolitan importance) (SINC) and Green Chain.
Protection of designated land
We believe that at times there is some muddle and confusion over what the MOL status means and how to deal with it. The Friends agree with the Mayor of London’s stance on this subject that it is akin to ‘Green Belt in the City’ and that development on it and amending the boundary of the land affected, should be subject to the same scrutiny. (See appendix)
Enhancement and management
One person’s careful management is interference to another. There are many challenges and compromises needed to achieve the best balance in a linear nature park through an inner city area. Different approaches are needed to each part of the Walk, but the Friends believe the balance should be reached after discussion, and the best vehicle for discussion is a comprehensive site-specific management plan. This must be wide-ranging and regularly reviewed, and deal with social and environmental matters as well as the flora and fauna of the nature reserve.
Fundamental to the Friends’ view is that the Walk should be a green escape from the pressures and ‘urbanness’ of the inner city and its suburbs. It should also be accessible to people of all abilities and should be maintained to keep it accessible, while retaining its character as a nature reserve not an urban park.
We have had considerable input into path and drainage works and through that consultation process we rejected hard-edged and urban style finishes, preferring natural ‘hoggin’; a mix of sand clay and pebbles that locks up into a firm surface.
The boundary of the Walk is important to keeping the nearby town at bay, thus hard fences and new, tall structures overpowering the sense of space in the Walk are features we will resist. Green edge treatments that hide fences and keeping big structures away from the edge of the Walk are issues we will be vigilant about.
Signs and equipment
The Walk should not be cluttered with all the paraphernalia of an urban park. Corporate signage or the same ‘stuff’ used in parks and gardens is not appropriate to a linear nature reserve such as the Walk. The stock book from towns and parks should be put aside and a different language, more calm and even rustic is more appropriate on the Walk. Inspiration from the National Trust or English Heritage is more appropriate than other open spaces within the owning authorities.
Removal of some species in certain places
All landscapes in Britain have been changed by man and are regularly managed. Nature is hardly ever left entirely to its own devices. Bramble and seedlings have to be removed if acid grassland is to survive. Rapid growth or nettle and bramble beside the path can narrow it and cause conflict. The Friends are content to see subtle management that is justified and has been debated through the process of adopting a management plan. Unfortunately there is drug taking in some locations on the embankments, so in places a ‘least bad’ outcome may be the reduction of plants in some areas so hideaways are avoided. The Walk needs to be a good neighbour, and in some locations sunlight is denied to some properties with short gardens. As micro-generation of electricity and other green energy projects take off, consideration may have to be given to re-introducing the coppice regimes once used by the railway companies in some places, or other regimes to make the canopies of trees or shrubs stay lower. Entrances to any public place should be welcoming, not dank and enclosed or forbidding so management of the planting near entrances is important but needs to be set out in a management plan. Good forward visibility will make users feel safer, but the management must be subtle so any cutting back should be just enough. The Friends also accept the need to control vegetation close to bridges that may cause structural damage.
Education and understanding
Whilst not wishing to see urban clutter, some information set into appropriate locations will give information on the interesting features of the Walk and flora and fauna to be found in different seasons. Much information can be in the form of leaflets or web based. The Friends see part of their role as facilitating greater understanding by sponsoring or facilitating information on site, online or on paper.
The Friends are affiliated to TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) and can buy from them training and insurance to allow work days to take place, and their own gangs of trainees and volunteers can be brought onto the Walk to deliver projects such as litter picking, pruning and other tasks set out in the Management Plan.
Appendix – notes on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) issues
MOL was first conceived in the Greater London Development Plan of 1976 and it was for the local planning authorities to define the boundaries in their Development Plans. This was done in Haringey in 1982. It would appear that the Proposals Maps of subsequent Plans have mapped some boundaries in different places, but we cannot find evidence, to date, that demonstrates the losses of MOL were ever noted as a change for debate or objection at the various Plan Inquiries.
The Friends therefore take the view held on cases of Green Belt drafting errors, that the boundary is as originally defined unless the changes have been noted and subjected to comment and debate through the Local Plan revision process (subsequently the Unitary Development Plan now Local Development Framework) process.
Where we think the owning authorities are acting or have acted improperly in this respect, we will defend the land we regard as protected. We will be monitoring the boundaries against encroachment and vigorously supporting the council to protect the integrity of the Walk where others seek to erode it.