Why do we need a Wildlife Trail?
The Parkland Walk is a nature reserve, and signs along the path do provide some information. However, the Walk is effectively one long straight path and can be busy with runners, cyclists, ramblers and dog walkers. There are few places where there is sufficient space to pause peacefully to contemplate your surroundings. The Wildlife Trail will not only provide that, but will also be a place where young children can explore and learn about wildlife. There will be lots of small, simple information posts showing what to look out for and we aim to establish a variety of habitats to attract birds and wildlife. It is clear that generally speaking people have a poor understanding of nature conservation and this small plot can help improve understanding to the benefit of the whole nature reserve and other green areas. We will provide guidance on what you can do to encourage more wildlife into your garden and hopefully excite young minds as they discover more about how nature is working all around them. Features are likely to include a bird feeding station, bee and bug hotels, stag beetle loggery, bat and bird boxes, hedgehog shelters and a pond.
What will the effect be on local wildlife?
The ecology and habitats in this area are rated as ‘poor’ in the current Management Plan for the Parkland Walk. There are no fox dens in the site and with the exception of Grey wagtails that nest just outside the area, there are no significant nesting patterns. Owls and woodpeckers have been reported, but they do not nest in the area and are visiting from other areas. None of the trees are suitable for owls or woodpecker. The former Conservation Officer for Haringey, Ian Holt, recommended that much could be done to improve this area. Although a trail is likely to increase the amount of footfall in the area, we are putting a great deal of effort into significantly developing the flora with a greater variety of trees and bushes, together with open areas, to attract more insects and wildlife. We will also be mounting a variety of bird and bat boxes (including an owl box), and hope to establish a bird feeding post. Although there will be some initial disturbance, wildlife in urban settings is remarkably resilient and we anticipate the local wildlife will flourish as the ground cover improves and provides improved feeding, nesting and concealment opportunities. We are aware of many areas on the Parkland Walk where birds and wildlife are happy to live and be present close to areas of high footfall. Footfall is not likely to be disruptive or excessive.
How will bats be affected?
Bats require different degrees of shelter while roosting, depending on the time of year. However, at any time of year, a typical roosting place will most likely be very well sheltered from the elements, be it in a roof void in summer or tree hollow or tunnel any time of year. For this reason, ivy is not a very satisfactory roost, and, although I have heard of bats being found in ivy, I myself have never come across bats in ivy in the 26 years I have been doing tree work or in the 17 years I have been licenced to study bats for the purpose of conservation. Bats will sometimes roost transiently (for a single night for instance) in a less sheltered location, but only at a time of year when temperatures are mild and when they are actively feeding. So, this means it would be extremely unlikely to disturb a roosting bat in ivy in winter.
All UK bats feed on insects. Most tree foliage and also ivy on trees will attract insects, so bats will frequently be seen foraging around trees. They also forage above grassy areas, and anywhere where small insects cluster at dusk. As long as a diversity of habitat is maintained, and the removal of some features are mitigated for by the preservation of similar habitat nearby, the quality of feeding habitat should not be adversely affected. Cindy Blaney, bat ecologist
Will trees be cut down?
With a few exceptions, this area is dominated by ash and sycamore. A high density of trees is bad not only for the trees themselves (they do not grow outwards but just bolt skywards in search of light), the dense shade also prevent the growth of a variety of plants and flowers in the ‘understory’. Woodland experts and conservationist recognise that tree density is too high along much of the Walk and the ground is being starved of light and warmth, which prevents the growth of low shrubs and wild flowers that provide a habitat for certain insects and other wildlife. Many of the big trees are sycamores. Sycamores are non-native and support only 15 species of insect compared to trees like birch, willow and oak, which support hundreds of insect species. Sycamores also block out huge amounts of light. All the tree works we have planned are to enable the ecology to flourish. It is anticipated that some of the ash in the area may fall victim to ash dieback disease (Chalara). If this occurs , it will provide the opportunity to plant other native species. We know that removing trees is a sensitive subject, but we are convinced, having spoken to so many experts, that the plan we have constitutes good woodland management and conservation practice and one that is nationally accepted as highly beneficial to the development of healthy ground cover and results in greatly improved habitats for wildlife. Some people have suggested that it seems very bizarre to take out a lot of vegetation and disturb an area with the idea of improving the ecology and habitat, but when managed responsibly this is exactly what has been proved to be the case in other sites.
What about the ivy on trees?
Ivy on trees is natural and generally an ecological benefit. It provides cover and winter food supplies for birds, and is home to many species of insects. The volume of ivy on the trees in this area is excessive however, and increases the density of the shade. It can also put a burden on a tree in high winds by acting as a sail. We plan to thin out the ivy on trees by 1/3 to 2/3 by cutting out sections of stem at 1 metre from the ground. Although it will take some time for the ivy to die back, this will mean the ivy can be reduced without aggressively affecting any current nesting or roosting habitats.
Why has a lot of vegetation already been removed?
At least half of the site will remain undisturbed. The central area contains dense ivy which provides good insect and bird cover, and the back of the site is quite wooded. Almost all the vegetation we have removed is ivy covering the ground or tree saplings that cannot develop properly due to the lack of light. Exposing the ground by removing ivy, and allowing light and warmth through should stimulate many seeds already in the ground. Where partial clearing has been carried out in Queen’s Wood and Coldfall Wood, there has been a 300% increase in wild flower species in the first year. We intend to leave some areas just so we can see what comes up naturally. In other areas we will be sowing wild flower seeds and planting native shrubs, specifically to attract species of butterflies and insects.
Why can't the trail be placed in the area in front of the tunnels?
When we first discussed the idea of the trail with Haringey's Conservation Officer Ian Holt, this area was one that we had in mind. He pointed out that the area was the best ecologically over the whole of the Parkland Walk. For this reason, it should continue to be managed by volunteers, but it would be potentially damaging to increase footfall and human presence above that which currently existed. Ideally, from a nature conservation perspective, the public would be prevented access, but this was against the current policy for the Parkland Walk. Ian believed, in line with guidance in the Management Plan, that it would be much better to find an area of poor habitat value that could be improved. It was also an objective to provide more opportunity for the public to learn about nature, something the Green Flag judges were also keen to see. As much of the Walk is either in cuttings or embankments we needed to find a relatively flat area where this could be achieved. The area we have chosen answers those requirements better than anywhere else. From a nature perspective, opening the area up, and introducing plants, shrubs, and a pond, along with regular management and the provision of habitats for birds, bats, hedgehogs, bees and insects will significantly improve the plot ecologically.
I’ve seen grey wagtails in the area and heard owls. What’s going to happen to them?
We have been monitoring the grey wagtails and will not be interfering with the area where we believe they are nesting. We will also be working to ensure that the wet areas they visit are not damaged or affected by the project. Owls are regularly heard along the length of the Parkland Walk and elsewhere. None of the trees currently in the Trail site are naturally suited to owl roosts. We do intend to install owl boxes to offer nesting options. The removal of some trees on and around the site will offer improved hunting grounds for owls and kestrels.
How will the pond remain fresh?
There are a number of options. We can plant oxygenating plants, which – in conjunction with rainfall – may be enough to keep the water fresh. We could install a solar-powered pump to circulate the water. The third option would be to create a supply of fresh water by connecting up to the rainwater down pipe from a neighbour’s roof to a supply tank. This is known as SUDS or Sustainable Urban Drainage System. It’s one very natural approach to managing drainage in and around properties and reduces the strain on our urban drains. We’d be very keen to talk to any neighbours (especially on Shepherd’s Close), who might be interested in contributing to such a solution.
When will it be ready?
Works to the trees and the construction of a path will take place over February and March. We will be creating additional features and signage from then on and through the summer.
Isn't an aggregate path a bit much for such a small site?
We had originally intended to create a path that was suitable for those with mobility problems. On balance we agree that the path needs to be in keeping with the scale of the site and the costs have proved high. Wood chip is soft and spongy when first laid but hardens up quickly as it beds down and we hope this change in plan will not affect too many people adversely.
Will there be a guide to show children round?
There will be plenty of signposts designed with young children in mind. We are approaching local schools so that they can make good use of the trail. We also hope to put on short walks around the trail for children as soon as the site is ready and dates of those will be made public on the website and circulated via our newsletter.
Can I walk my dog on the trail?
Recents research shows that dogs have a far more profound negative affect on wildlife and flora than previously considered as they don’t stick to paths and instinctively want to hunt out other creatures. From a conservation perspective, the site will become a highly ecologically sensitive area. Dog urine and faeces add nitrogen to the soil, which impacts on wild flowers and encourages nettles as well as creating a health hazard. Dogs playing in ponds completely destroy water habitats. For this reason we would ask that dogs are kept under control on leads at all times and if possible not brought into the area at all.
Who is managing the project?
The project was conceived by the Friends of the Parkland Walk after discussions with the Haringey Conservation Officer. Its development and implementation is being run by a working group from the FPW committee. The working group is working closely with experts and specialists including officers from the Haringey Parks Department. The project is in line with the guidance contained in the council Parkland Walk Management Plan. The working group is open to suggestions from anyone.
Can I get involved?
Absolutely yes! The Friends of the Parkland Walk are always keen to recruit new volunteers and would really welcome your involvement. We look out for the interests of the whole of the Parkland Walk from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace and this project adds to our already busy workload. Details of days when we will be working on the site are on our website, where you can also sign up for emails to make sure you are kept up to date with our plans and other events.
How is it going to be paid for?
The Friends of the Parkland Walk have secured a £10,000 grant from the Tesco Bags of Help Initiative to create the Trail. This money comes from the 5p charge for bags at Tesco stores. Most of the money will be spent on meeting the costs of tree works, the laying of a wood chip path and the creation of a pond. Any additional works that require substantial amounts of money will need to be met by grants and/or donations.
Who is going to look after the Wildlife Trail?
The Trail, as part of the Parkland Walk, will belong to Haringey council, and they will ultimately be responsible for it. The trail is a project by the Friends of the Parkland Walk, and we expect to do most of the work involved in looking after and developing it. A possible way of dealing with maintenance costs we are considering is to set up a special Wildlife Trail Fund. In addition, we think this Trail will be a real asset to the local area, particularly children, and would like to encourage people in adjoining streets to form a small group who can look out for the interests of the site – for example by clearing up litter, topping up bird feeders, carrying out minor repairs or reporting it to the Friends.
Will there be a security problem for neighbouring properties?
This is something we take very seriously. We have had in-depth conversations with local Police Officers. They have stated that they do not believe the creation of a trail will increase crime. There is currently a low level of anti-social behaviour in the area and police officers do not anticipate this changing as a result of the establishment of the trail. They recognise that garden fences adjacent to public ground may be vulnerable but things can be done to improve security. Many of the fences are already some of the highest on the Parkland Walk due to their elevated position and the addition of a trellis can add more height. Opening up the plot by removing trees will reduce areas where people can hide and makes activity more visible from the Parkland Walk main path. To make access to fence lines more difficult, and to improve habitats, the Friends will be planting a double hedge of thorny shrubs along the boundary. If neighbours would like ivy to be allowed to grow up their fence we can ensure that is allowed to happen naturally and will not remove it. There is a local active Neighbourhood Watch scheme and Crime Prevention Officers are happy to review any security concerns you may have. We too are happy to discuss your concerns and will consider options that will improve security.
The following have been consulted at various stages for their professional guidance on matters of nature conservation, woodland management and good ecology practice:
Ian Holt, Former Nature Conservation Officer, Haringey Council
Dick Tomlinson, Arboriculture & Allotments Officer, Haringey Council
Alex Fraser, Tree and Nature Conservation Manager
Louisa Roscoe, Nature Conservation Officer, Islington Council
Lewis Taylor, Haringey Parks Manager
Clif Osborne, Senior Project Officer, The Conservation Volunteers
Cindy Blaney, Bat Ecologist, Arborist, Highgate Woods
Jonathan Meares, Highgate Wood, Trees and Conservation and Sustainability Manager
David Bevan, Botanist, Former Nature Conservation Officer, Haringey Council