Trees Just Large Weeds Made Out of Wood Says Councillor

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009. 1:09am

Paradise Nature Reserve - Looking A Little Overgrown and Wild

The Paradise Nature Reserve Often Looks A Little Overgrown and Wild Photo from CycleStreets (license)

On Monday the 22nd of June 2009 Cambridge Liberal Democrats issued a press release titled Lib Dems welcome cash help for city’s wild spaces in which they announced a number of projects to be carried out in Local Nature Reserves. In the winter of 2008/9 the Liberal Democrat run City Council felled 73 healthy trees at the Byron’s Pool nature reserve which it manages. The trees at Byron’s pool were healthy and established, they were felled because the council considered some them non-native and thought others were shading the river too much.

On Tuesday the 23rd of June 2009 I observed an Environment Scrutiny Committee. While the content of the press release was not formally presented at the meeting, Labour Leader of the Opposition, Lewis Herbert, was able to ask if the proposed Nature Reserve works involved felling more trees. I think he expected this to be a flippant jibe commenting on the recent fellings in the city; however shockingly he was told that the council does intend to get rid of more trees. Those under threat are at the Paradise Nature Reserve, which is on the banks of the River Cam between Owlstone Road and Lammas Land in Newnham. The council plans to remove the large self-seeded ash and sycamore trees from this area; this appears to be on the grounds that they are “self-seeded” and therefore not growing in the ordered manner the City Council likes its trees. Councillor Ward said:

The work proposed is essentially weeding. It is just that these are large weeds made of wood.

I think that the slightly wild and natural elements of this area make it a pleasant place to walk along the river; it’s not a place that I think would benefit from clearing and formalising. The council’s proposals will follow a new protocol for tree works; under which it will depend on if the works are classed “major” or “minor” to determine if any public consultation, or even consultation with elected members will be held. There is no specific provision in the new decision making protocol on trees to deal with self-seeded saplings.

As yet no further details of the proposed fellings are available to the public; though given Cllr Ward’s comments presumably the Liberal Democrats have some idea of what they are planning. Cllr Ward’s description might well even be accurate. I’m taking a moderate view on this, (as I do with everything else too): many self-seeded saplings won’t thrive, most barely get off the ground. However just the fact a tree is self-seeded, isn’t in itsself an argument for removing it. I would entirely support some thinning out intended to give selected saplings the best chance of long term survival.

9 comments/updates on “Trees Just Large Weeds Made Out of Wood Says Councillor

  1. John Ionides

    Thanks for the heads up on this. There is indeed a narrow line between good husbandry and the sterilisation of wild areas. It increasingly looks as though the City Council is straying over that boundary.

  2. Richard Article author

    Thanks Gareth,

    You’ve just prompted me to look up the history.

    Lammas Land relates to Lammas Day, the first of August and the traditional harvest festival day, it’s nothing to do with Tibetan monks or South American ruminants. Many areas of green around the town were designated lammas lands in law, that is they were common lands for 9 months of the year, but for the sole use of their owners for the remainder (Lammas Day being the day they changed ownership).

    Source – Chris Hadley

    I’ll correct the error in the article!

  3. David Vincent

    How far back are we going to define what is a “native species”? Are we getting rid of the horse chestnut for instance?

  4. David Vincent

    Sorry, missed that one. You’d think they’d perhaps restrict themselves to trees introduced after the lifetime of Byron. We’ll be getting rid of non-native vegetables next. No potatoes to be grown on Council allotments!

  5. Neale Upstone

    Thankfully, I think you’ll find that we’re not in the business of eradicating masses of imported species, and that Tim’s comments were in jest (he’s like that, it keeps people from falling asleep in the gallery). Having said that, I’m very much aware of the Sycamores dominating my own garden and the constant process of pulling up seedlings from my veg plot. With any luck some of the squirrels work will get to replace them. I wonder how many squirrel planted chestnuts there are growing in Paradise!

  6. David Vincent

    One of the problems is that there is very little confidence that the ruling group are not in the business of eradicating trees (or rather allowing them to be eradicated under their noses) given the amount of destruction that has taken place recently. The actual work at Byron’s Pool was a lot more destructive in reality than the plan implied and even done in Byron’s name ( to produce “the romance and tranquillity that Lord Byron would have himself experienced” according to Ellis Selway – so what was native in B’s day should perhaps be relevant). Cllr Ward’s possible sense of humour and lessons from Cllr Upstone’s vegetable garden may not always be reliable safeguards.

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