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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Haringey Council is looking to improve accessibility on the Parkland Walk. That's not necessarily good news.

There's a huge risk that this could drastically change the unique feel of the nature reserve and even damage it, with a wider, smoother path facilitating ever larger numbers of people, especially cyclists, and at the expense of the health of the natural ecology and the flora and wildlife it supports.

Is it the parkification of a wild space? You can view the latest newsletter from the Friends of the Parkland Walk  and find out their concerns. You'll also get the link to the consultation form where you can share your concerns or ideas with Haringey project officers. 

Acess the consultation at parklandwalkimprovements.commonplace.is

Tags for Forum Posts: biodiversity, consultation, disabled access, nature, parkland walk, wildlife

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great points

They did it with Walthamstow Reservoirs…

great points

The current path rattles my wheelchair to bits and hurts my back, hips and equipment. I would welcome a better path. It would require others to use the space responsibly. E-bikes on shared footways are a big issue. 

I feel strongly that there should be no vehicles of any type on these paths, save wheelchairs.

Is an ebike a vehicle?

As a cyclist and a runner I have mixed feelings. The Parkland Walk is my favourite place in the whole of London and I hope it retains its unique feel. But as a disabled person (well hopefully even without my disability I would have compassion for disabled people) I want there to be access for all. 

I have only cycled along the Parkland Walk once and haven't been keen to do it again, but I ride my bike for transportation not recreation. I think bikes should be allowed, we need more car free routes for people to use. Though it should be made abundantly clear that pedestrians have priority and it's not a place for riding fast.

As we’ve learned with car drivers, unless there’s enforcement, compliance is patchy. Cyclists aren’t a breed apart: just as with motorists, there are good cyclists and bad ones.

Cause of species decline on Parkland Walk

It's probably worth mentioning, ahead of specific challenges for nature on the Parkland Walk, that the UK is bottom of the league table of G7 countries, and third from bottom of all European countries when it comes to wildlife species decline. It would be easy to simplify blame farming methods for this statistic but urban wildlife is also under threat and in both environments, habitat management and stewardship is an integral part of the problem.

Historically Parkland Walk was at one time a uniquely healthy habitat for nature in the borough. Railway companies kept trees and shrubs under control near the tracks to prevent fires being started from sparks from trains and also to reduce material on the track that would hinder the trains themselves. Trespass by the public was discouraged for obvious safety reasons. This created a vibrant and balanced relatively undisturbed ecology ranging from strips of meadow and grassland, through low shrub to a woodland strip on the boundary providing habitats for insects, birds and small mammals. Even muntjac deer was able to access the site because fencing at the time was crude and easily negotiated.

Over time all this has changed.

Grassland has been lost as the woodland spreads and becomes increasingly compact, to the point where the canopy has closed in some places preventing light and warmth from reaching the woodland floor. Previously deer would have grazed on saplings contributing as a natural control mechanism, but since human presence has grown significantly, and latterly the railways put in far more robust fencing, this is no longer the case.

Closed canopy woodland doesn't support a varied ground flora, dropping to a handful of hardy species such as ivy. For many people this doesn't seem such a bad thing. After all, aren't we clamouring for trees to save us from climate change? Well it's true that trees process carbon but so do many other plants and we need to also bear in mind that our woodlands need to be healthy and biodiversity mustn't be the price. Steep embankments built from compacted hard core, clay and coke waste is not conducive for healthy woodland. That might be why we're now seeing more trees failing in storms and higher rates of disease.

The range and variety of trees needs to be addressed. Sycamore is highly effective at taking over woodland but as a non native tree hosts less than two dozen types of insects. An English oak by comparison can host up to 400.

The move from picket fencing and hedges on boundaries to panel fencing also has implications for wildlife. Impenetrable fencing is probably one of the main reasons hedgehogs are no longer found on the nature reserve. Gardens, full of slugs and snails, are a rich source of food for hedgehogs which need to be able to forage over wide areas. If they can't access gardens eventually find a way out to the roads and a tragic end. Reintroduction would be pointless without addressing this particular problem. Hedging, as well as being vital for nesting birds, provides additional protections for all mammals.

Another significant loss on the reserve is the slow worm. Slow worm used to be recorded on the south facing embankments behind the Miltons in Highgate but this area is now heavily shaded and the grassland has gone. The ground no longer warms up sufficiently to support this rare reptile.

Information boards on Parkland Walk point to the presence of kestrels and we haven't seen those for years. This is again largely down to the loss of open ground where kestrels do their hunting. One of their main sources of food would be small field mice whose habitat has been greatly reduced so the kestrel has moved on.

Open meadow and grassland is also vital for the insects and pollinators which make up the base of the food chain. Butterfly numbers are in decline and it's no coincidence that the two best places to see butterflies in numbers are the grass embankments in Stroud Green and the recently created 'Wildlife Trail' at the Highgate  end of Parkland Walk.

The Friends of Parkland Walk and TCV have worked hard to develop and protect these two sites. The Wildlife Trail has a pond that is supplied by rainwater collected from one of the houses on Shepherds Close. The number of wildflowers has increased three fold and insect species are also growing in number. We've been urging Haringey council to include a pond when it landscapes around the new Stanhope Road bridge. Again, the idea is to include a sustainable drainage scheme to support pond levels.

These are some of the reasons why the nature reserve is such a long way from being as healthy as it once was, and should still be, and that's without including issues of fly-tipping, garden waste, trampling of ground, human disturbance and defecation and intrusion by dogs.

All recent SINC surveys, (Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation) have highlighted this decline and include recommendations for action. Previous management plans by Haringey have done the same, but in the 15 years I have been involved with the Friends I have seen no action on the ecology, only infrastructure. That's why I believe it's an absolute imperative that action is taken to ensure that the decline that has crept up unnoticed over time is reversed and it would be wrong to spend millions of pounds on access without mitigating against the impact on nature. If people are to be encouraged to discover and enjoy the nature reserve then they should expect it to be one.

Yes filled in. And yes this is one of m favourite places, it’s so beautiful and serene. Whilst I have no problem in opening it up to more people, I would however feel sad if the present path was just concreted over, changing the whole feel to the space. Also I think that would encourage some cyclists to speed down. And I disagree Hugh, it would be a real shame to exclude cyclists, prams etc. there are already so few places for them. And plenty of families are their small kids on bikes there. Personally I love it as it is, and would love it to stay as it is with us runners, walkers, cyclists weaving round each other, avoiding the hundreds of dogs. But hey, it would also be great, if wheelchair users can get down there

Here's the thing: current petition to Parliament to turn it back into the railway it once was: 

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/639163

So, new metal tracks, or 'new metalled track'?

PS My cat has more chance of being First Cat on the Moon...

I would imagine you can't disturb the bats in the tunnel. At least I would hope so!

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