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Update from Wormholt Park

November 15, 2020

It’s been a while since the last update from the Friends!

Since the pandemic has meant more time at home for many local people, the park has become an even more valuable resource for everyone.  Having somewhere to go, walk, play and relax has made a great difference to our well-being and our appreciation of our green spaces and the nature in it.

Volunteers in action:

Despite a difficult year, we still managed to hold a couple of gardening sessions with volunteers from Good Gym in August and September.  We tackled the beds near the ball court and got mountains of weeds out!  The council has been working with volunteers to weed the beds by the Bloom too.

Lovely trees:

We’ll be planting 4 new trees in the park soon which are Liquidambar (Sweet Gum), Silver Birch, Great White Cherry and Red Maple.

The Liquidambar and Red Maple have fantastic leaf colour in autumn and the Great White Cherry will join the declining ‘sister’ cherries near Sawley Road main entrance.  While the old cherries there are reaching the end of their lives naturally, we are planting a new gorgeous cherry as a successor to these lovely trees.

Threats to our parks and trees:

1.       Wormwood Scrubs

Although not our park, we wanted to let you know about a devastating threat to a much-loved local park, Wormwood Scrubs.  HS2 are set to commence in January a 4-year construction project diverting a sewer into this protected Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC). The proposed works will cause immeasurable devastation to the delicate ecology of this last piece of beautiful untouched wild meadow and woodland.

We understand that HS2 has been granted the powers to acquisition land under the HS2 Bill – however, this does not mean they are above the law. The terms of the HS2 bill stipulate that “HS2 must ensure that communities are properly informed and consulted and that the impacts of construction are minimised.” – they have failed to do so and have deliberately withheld information regarding these plans until a month prior to commencement.

Please help save Wormwood Scrubs by signing this petition: www.change.org/saveourscrubs The goal is to reach 5,000 signatures and we need your support.  They are also on Facebook ‘Save Wormwood Scrubs’

2.       Black Poplar

One tree that we are trying hard to save is the largest tree in Wormholt Park, the Black Poplar.  The tree is old, probably around 150 years.  It is in decline and has a cavity from fungus and some dead branches in its crown.  We believe this to be the Populus nigra species which is a priority species to protect in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.  It’s rare and important to our ecology.  Even if it is the more common Black poplar hybrid, Populus x canadensis, it is still a beautiful, old tree that has an important role in the park’s history and biodiversity.  It supports a great variety of wildlife including insects, birds and possibly bats. 

The Council’s tree team have visually inspected the tree and want to reduce the entire canopy by 30% along with removing any deadwood and all branches below 3m.  The council’s priority is understandably the health and safety of people using the park. 

We have researched evidence to suggest that the proposed radical pruning will speed up the decline and death of the tree.  Multiple pruning cuts are more likely to introduce and speed up decay; rather than lasting another 30+ years, it is more likely to die in 10.  We have therefore objected to the Council proposed works.

The Friends have found a specialist tree inspector, who is an expert in veteran trees.  He is able to carry out a different type of test (static load test) that the council does not use to get a more and accurate picture of the integrity of the tree – the test and report will cost around £900.  He can then provide detailed evidence to the council on whether these works need to take place, or if there can be an alternative plan of works to ensure both the tree’s safety and longevity.

We have offered to pay for 50% of the fees and 50% from funds the council has agreed to give us for additional planting.  We have met the Council with Cllr Schmid to discuss this issue, put forward our proposal for a test and the council has to date refused to agree to our request to carry out this alternative test.  The Poplar tree is still under threat of major reduction.  We have again asked Cllr Schmid to intercede as we have not received replies to our request for a delay in proceeding with works to the tree or accession to our request for an alternative test.

We will keep you updated on this, and of course welcome any comments from our community.

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