There’s a meadow between Hardings Lane and Upper Barn Copse, Fair Oak. This meadow was mercifully spared from the development known as Crowdhill Green. But it was a strange take on mercy.
It’s Plot C and part of B on this image. ‘A’ and the field to the upper right have mainly disappeared under brick and tarmac.
The meadow had been fallow for at least 20 years and had developed a significant flora of grasses, wildflowers and small trees. You can see it evolving 2000-2015 here:
At least 1,000 wild sown oaks, hawthorns, cherry-plums and others had become established. Now, without intervention, this would have developed into ‘secondary woodland’, meaning that the area of grassland would have diminished as trees took over. But this would have taken many decades, and could easily have been prevented by selective removal of the saplings - most of which would have died anyway from natural causes - and by allowing the regularly visiting deer to nibble at them.
This is how it looked in 2015:
EBC decided it hat to be turned into a wildflower meadow. Which it already was - there were foxgloves, orchids, heartsease and quite a few others - though the grasses were dominant.
In autumn 2016, they fenced it off and placed ‘reptile barriers’ around it.
Learning from EBC that the saplings and other trees ‘would not be preserved’, I applied to the Borough and Parish Councils for permission to raise and transplant some of the saplings to elsewhere in the parish. Colin Burchett our former Parish Park Warden, enthusiastically raised an army of volunteers and over a weekend we raised at least 250 and replanted them (plus more that Colin had sourced elsewhere) in Knowle Park.
Raising the Trees in the Meadow
Replanting Team in Knowle Park, October 2015
This in the face of EBC saying it was a waste of effort and was likely to lead to disappointment. As it was, the transplantation was a major community success, the great majority of the trees survived the move.
There was no attempt by the council to communicate its plans for the meadow - just responses to letters. No communications posted around its perimeter. In consequence, many of the ‘reptile barriers’ got trampled.
In July 2017, the workmen moved in and began annihilating the site:
Crushed out of existence
A part of its area had been set aside for ‘attenuation ponds’ for Crowdhill Copse. Obviously the spoil had to go somewhere. But almost the entire meadow was bulldozed. Most of the larger wild plums, and protected hawthorns - even toward the meadow’s edge, were ripped out - and thrown into the Woodland Trust’s land. As one respondent observed- this was “destroying a meadow to plant a meadow”.
This was then compounded when they stared to dump huge amounts to ‘topsoil’ from elsewhere for ‘landscaping’. What an absolute horror-show.
And then the council - wait for it - planted trees. They annihilated around 800 FREE trees, and BOUGHT and PAID FOR 16 to be planted. And you have paid for this in your Council Tax.
Oh - and you should know that EBC made their Biodiversity Officer REDUNDANT. That’s how much they care. (edit - this para moved to here as open to misinterpretation where it originally was).
However, I spoke with the people doing the planting. The ‘topsoil’ was so full of rubble that they could not penetrate it to the appropriate depth, and it repeatedly broke their tools. Several of these trees have died - having to be replaced at more expense.
Two years later (May 2019), nature’s forgiveness, grass, had begun to recolonise the moonscape. I found a single white campion in a sea of weeds, the only wildflower on the whole meadow.
Many calls and letters to EBC Council from concerned residents like me resulted in the Council removing at least the worst of the rubble, leftover plastic reptile barriers and barbed wire [though remnants are there to this day] .
(Edit: I moved the para from here: there was no link at all between EBC making their biodiversity Office redundant and FOHHPC!)
Not until that was done did our Fair Oak and Horton Heath Parish Council permit EBC to transfer the meadow into their ownership - kudos there!
Since adopting the meadow, FOHHPC have gradually improved it with a Lych gate, seating and various sculptures. No sign of the promised wildflower meadow yet: but real wildflower meadows take decades to develop - don’t they? And - as we have seen right here - can be destroyed in the blink of an eye.
It will never again be an autumn evening heaven with the fantastic mix of grasses. It will also never again be visited by real deer - we are supposed to be happy to make do with fake steel ones, as the entire meadow and wider estate have been surrounded with heavy-duty steel fencing - from Lithuania. So no browsing mammals to keep anything in check. Balance of nature excluded.
So, to FOHHPC:
Please look after the meadow, by allowing it to regain a natural balance.
Please keep an eye on the rushes that are already dominating the ponds
Never use chemical herbicides.
Manage it properly, using traditional methods.
Some young trees, bent right over in the recent high winds, need to be straightened.
Please remove the last of the plastic and barbed wire.
Do we really want yet another suburban park?