Another greenfield bites the dust: with loss of hedgerow containing oak standards, Hook.
The Hedgerow Regs. are complicated. To qualify a hedge must be >30 years old, be longer than 20m, abutt another hedge and surround open land. The Regs. could offer greater protection for a habitat and maintain ecological function for a group of veteran oak trees than say, a TPO order. They are in essence, very different: - the latter is an amenity designation; and the other serves to protect a habitat. A dynamic system such as a hedgerow, constantly regenerating itself, can be many hundreds of years old and a good place to start to identify them, is on old maps.
This is a section from an old map of the area from 1842, the red line indicates the same oaks that can be seen in the photo above (taken in 2021). The vegetation was managed grading the habitat from the veteran oak trees down to the scrub layer and was an aesthetically beautiful natural asset in our suburbs.
As far as I am aware, the council began investigating the status of the oaks ~ decade ago when a developer bought up the SLOPE (space left over after planning). The original development concerned was the council's and the SLOPE was a grass verge in front of the line of boundary oaks to the west of the council development.
In fairness, there were many planning appeals before the site was developed. The appeals are the only online record of the management of the hedgerow over time, for example a quantitative commentary on additional saplings/regeneration. A report produced for the council on the qualifiers for the Hedgerow Regs. appears to be no longer obtainable. Despite multiple failed attempts, permission was eventually granted for housing in 2016 and completed 2018. Now the eastern flank looks like this.
But, I hear you say, 'the trees are on the field side' .........well, the field looks like this.
To make things worse for our environment, there followed an application to fell one of the veteran oaks and permission was given for this October 2022 (sorry for poor photo from the planning website but I have to consider GDPR and you can see this for yourself on the TPO applications). Although a recent tree report deeming it healthy, it now has a 'dangerous disease'.
so what will be left?
Elder appeared beneath mature trees where birds have been perching and is evidence of natural regeneration. It is an important shrub/tree for nesting birds, deadwood and hollow wood for sheltering invertebrates, as well as hosting fungi.
The fruits of elder are consumed by more bird species than any other British Plant (Snow and Snow 1988). Its fruit can be extremely abundant when located close to a river (Bonesgate) and as it matures early can be important for migratory species before they fuel up for their journeys south.
Bramble/scrub provides an abundance of fruit, rose hips, haws and hazel nuts. Once enjoyed by many bird and mammal species and offering potential refuges for two species whose numbers have crashed in my lifetime.
Scrub has the potential to support hedgehog. Hedgehog are a Species of Principal Importance. Hedgehog are also protected against intentional acts of cruelty under the Wild Animals (Protection) Act 1996, making them a material consideration for planning, and as such should be protected as part of the development and habitats enhanced for these species.why was there a need to cut the scrubby vegetation with a brush cutter and why wasn't this staged? How much more will be lost?
The stag beetle is a globally threatened species, protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended, and listed as a priority species for the UK and London Biodiversity Action Plans. This is highlighted due to the amount of dead wood on site and the allotments nearby.
Its distribution has contracted in the last 40 years, although it is still locally common in a number of ‘hotspots’ such as the Thames Valley around London. It is believed that the destruction of its key habitat – dead wood – through the ‘tidying-up’ of woodlands and gardens is the prime reason for its decline, although in urban areas the impacts, cats and other predators will also be significant.
The stag beetle requires dead wood to complete its lifecycle. The eggs are laid underground by logs, or stumps of dead trees, and the larva (or grub) will spend up to seven years inside slowly growing in size. Adults emerge from the soil beneath logs or stumps from mid-May until late July. Males emerge earlier and appear to be more active as they search for females to mate, and can often be seen flying on sultry summer evenings an hour or two before dusk. As adults they are short-lived and generally die after mating, although occasionally some may over-winter in places such as compost heaps. But this is less likely now in Hook.