Monday 7 August 2017

Response to Arbury Road FOI

Response to my request for any documentation re. ecological survey of Arbury Road has come. I won't (yet) upload the whole lot (wondering if its automatically posted somewhere, and haven't found it yet), but it is, if I'm honest, a little bit of a mess.

Its like I'm dealing with robots who are only concerned with an overall bigger picture, but just don't care for any local ecological concerns at all.

We need a good cycle facility on Arbury Road and the hedges along much of the road could easily have been retained while still delivering that. But even if the hedge was to be removed, it would have been better to do so in Autumn (and yes, that was the intent - as is still shown on the City Deal web site, and this is acknowledged in advice in the FOI response). Thats better both for removal and re-planting. And it also seems that my advice re. species selection for the hedge (cornus and buckthorn aren't suitable there) was checked with a professional and found to be correct. Didn't help, though.

But the problem here is shown in a single line:

"This isn’t a countryside hedge on Windsor Castle grounds."

No, its something far harder to replace than either. In Windsor Castle or out in most countryside areas there's a significant seed-stock around the site from which any disturbed ground can recover. It WAS an agricultural hedge, but it now has tarmac on either side of it, so any recovery of the site can only come from seed stock right beneath where its been replanted. And as that replanting was done very, very late, many seeds that were germinating already would have been killed twice if not three times (when the hedge was removed, when the site was dug, and when the site was re-planted). If you keep disturbing germinating seeds they die - thats why gardeners use a hoe regularly, to kill off the germinating seeds we don't want. If you kill most of them off in this way in a site that is now very isolated it can't recover very well. And that is especially true if you then mulch the site with wood chips - the whole point of that is to prevent anything growing.

So no, nationally, this isn't something of pristine worth - but in terms of our local ecology in Kings Hedges it really is a big deal to have done this, and the lack of any historical context or any in-depth review of what species were present in the hedge (its like they glanced at it and just said 'oh its hawthorn') really mean that they didn't give a toss about what they were doing there. And therefore the opportunity to get it right has been missed. No, we've lost nothing thats nationally scarce (although some of those species are locally unusual), but thats not the context for this - the context for this is whats present nearby, what the local ecology is. And locally we've lost something increasingly rare here.

I note a certain air of skepticism in the FOI response regarding my list of the species we lost from the site. Great. Thanks guys. Please, give me some credit - if I was going to make something up do you not think I'd go a bit more imaginative than this? Why would I lie, and if I did why the hell would that be the list I'd come up with? If I was going to make some shit up do you really think thats what I'd make up? See some sense. I made that list from memory, I'll vouch for each species listed there as having been present, and therefore any that are no longer present are on you. You did that. You may not care, but before dismissing this I invite you to show me where else in the neighbourhood we've got the same species mix - we haven't retained many sites like that and this loss is one that matters. I can list the fungal species I've found in and along the line of that hedge since moving in to the neighbourhood too, if you like, although again it will be from memory so probably incomplete (Marasmius oreades, Agaricis bitorquis, Agaricus silvicola, Agaricus xanthodermus, Agaricus campestris, Agaricus bernardiiMacrolepiota procera, Macrolepiota hortensis, Lepista saeva, Lepista nuda, Bovista plumbea, Hypholoma fasciulare, Pholiota squarrosa, Coprinus disseminatus, Boletus chrysenteron, Trametes versicolor, Polyporus squamosus) but I didn't list the fungi because I didn't think anyone would care, and its not like you can re-plant them anyway. You see, thats what happens when an amateur naturalist goes past the same hedge every day for years - they pick up a really good idea whats there. And look, that mushroom species list is made up of completely mundane species, there is nothing unusual or exciting there (except arguably Agaricus bernardii - you might think that Agaricus xanthodermus is an odd one but it is absurdly common locally) - but please try to get that local species diversity is not the same thing as national or even regional species diversity. I've found Pholiota squarrosa precisely twice in Cambridge - do you not think its a shame that we've just wrecked one of those locations? Were it feasible to reintroduce it (it isn't) wouldn't you say yeah, actually, that'd be nice?

There is now some agreement that maybe they'll re-plant some species we've lost, which is good. But that City Deal/County Council turned this in to a barney from the outset by moving the hedge removal forward by 6 months with no chance of response, and that isn't ok. We're still short of many woody species we lost from the hedge (dog rose, bramble, cherry, cherry plum, elder, privet, greengage) that in their own way harked back to how the land was used here before the housing estate was built. We've got a hedge that hasn't got the character of a North Cambridge hedge - half a kilometer of history has been messed with, and it could have been done better.

What I'm hoping now is that local species diversity becomes something City Deal, going forward, give a damn about. But if its the same County employees? Thats going to necessitate a massive cultural change. What are the chances?

I invite you, City Deal, to discuss -now- what species are present in hedges and verges on Milton and Histon Roads. Lets do this, and lets do it from now. Lets get the next schemes right while doing what little can be done to restore some of what we lost on Arbury Road. Are you up for it?

Arbury Road was poorly surveyed and no historical context was taken, nor was any consideration shown for how to preserve any species diversity on the site. Shall we do the next schemes better? Are you up for it?

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