I set out to co-operate with the City Deal to get the best outcome for better cycle provision and environmental improvement on Arbury Road - the old hedge was a fine old thing but due to poor management there was room for improvement.
Things didn't go to plan. Major balls up, if I'm honest.
I shot this film on the way home yesterday to show how bad its getting:
If you're reading this and you've ever gardened where bindweed is a major pest you'll know that you can lose plants to it - it can cover over a young shrub, blocking light out from the leaves and effectively starve it of sunlight. The last thing you want to do is put a trellis up in front of newly planted shrubs, letting bindweed grow up it and shading everything out. Which is precisely what they've done with the fence.
The only undergrowth plants really thriving are the ones with really tough root stocks, we've lost the vast bulk of species we had - and it was quite needles. By planting at the wrong time of year with the wrong species and mulching heavily, restoring the undergrowth (where a lot of the real biodiversity lies) is an uphill task.
But they're finally (after I've pestered City Deal chief exec, and the Chief Exec of the County Council, repeatedly) agreed to cut some holes in the fence to let hedgehogs through. Its a start. Its late, and its tiny, but its a start.
What comes now is a big push towards getting them to obtain and plant some native wild plants (there are various suppliers who do this well) - it'll need some weeding come Autumn, and then lets get some restoration planting in. If we were talking about a native hedge re-planted in the countryside we could just wait and it would all be fine - but this hedge has tarmac on both sides of it, gritted in winter to the earth will be liberally salted. If its going to recover it'll need our help.
I want City Deal to be a success. But for that we need to see them working with residents and understanding the environmental context of what they're doing. Otherwise they'll see nothing but opposition and endless protest against what they're doing. I want to see good quality cycle schemes (unlike the farce in Green End Road), but we won't get that if residents end up fighting City Deal every step of the way. Going forward there are still very serious concerns for planting schemes on Histon Road, Miltn Road and elsewhere - come on guys, do you not want to turn this into a win? Do you now want to show you can work WITH us?