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. 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 were rated as ‘poor’ in the current Management Plan for the Parkland Walk in 2015. 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. The young saplings will in time become a dense bush, crucial for nesting birds as 80% of nesting birds in the UK use bushes, not trees. There are two bird feeding posts and we have erected bird boxes, bat boxes and an owl box. Although there will be some initial disturbance, wildlife in urban settings is remarkably resilient and we don’t foresee any long-term negative impact.
How will bats be affected? - Cindy Blaney, Bat ecologist
"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."
Why have trees been cut down?
With a few exceptions, this area was 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 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 were 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 carried out will enable the ecology to flourish and we have planted a variety of fruit bearing trees to increase tree diversity. We know that removing trees is a sensitive subject, but, having spoken to so many experts, we know the plan we have constitutes good woodland management and conservation practice.
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 1/2 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 habitats.
Why has a lot of vegetation been removed?
The process of removing trees required caterpillar track vehicles to move material around resulting in an area on the front of the site being cleared of surface plants - predominantly ivy. 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 has stimulated a dormant seed bank in the ground and we are seeing vigorous growth from plants that were not previously recorded in flora surveys in this area.
I’ve seen grey wagtails in the area and heard owls. What’s going to happen to them?
We have taken a lot of care not to change the area where we believe the grey wagtails were nesting. However, we haven't seen them recently and this is likely to be due to the dry winter that has resulted in the water table dropping and causing a muddy area that they frequented drying up. Owls are regularly heard along the length of the Parkland Walk and elsewhere. We have installed an owl box in the Trail area along with three others along the Parkland Walk. 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 and not stagnate?
Oxygenating plants will keep the pond fresh. The real challenge is to keep the pond full during the summer months. We are looking at options to provide the pond with a supply of water. Currently we are relying on the generosity of one of the neighbours who is helping us keep the pond topped up.
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 out of the area.
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 £12,000 grant from the Tesco Bags of Help Initiative to create the Trail. This money comes from the 5p charge for bags at Tesco stores. Some of our own funds will be used to keep the site in good order and to make improvements.
Who is going to look after the Wildlife Trail?
The Trail, as part of the Parkland Walk, belongs to Haringey council. 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 with assistance from The Conservation Volunteers. Everyone is welcome to contribute and we especially welcome support from the immediate community.
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