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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Last Saturday, after attending a meeting of the Haringey Parks Forum, I decided to walk home from Turnpike Lane across Ducketts Common. It is 3 months since the circus wrought so much damage and I wanted to look at the state of the grass and wildflower diversity.

To some this may seem a tangled mess of "weeds", to me it is biodiversity in action!

Have a look at  this thread for pictures and info to remind yourself of the state of the Common in March. 

From the minutes of the previous meeting of the Parks Forum, I learned that concerns had been raised about damage to the roots of the plane trees by the heavy vehicles of the circus parking too close to them, and to the grass by tents and caravans. The view of the council was that the unusual levels of rainfall in March had contributed to the problem but they agreed to get the Tree Officer to check that the trees had suffered no damage.

At last week’s meeting, it *appeared* that this inspection hadn’t been carried out, but the representatives said they would follow it up.  Just to make doubly sure, I wrote to Councillor Zena Brabazon, two days ago, to ask for her assistance and I will update this post with her reply when I get it.

Loss of those trees would be catastrophic both as habitat and as protection for the humans that use this area. Large street trees like these London planes store carbon, help remove air pollution, keep areas cool, as well as holding rainwater that might otherwise pool around drains. Studies show that they have a positive effect on both physical and mental health. However, parking heavy vehicles under trees will damage their roots and kill the tree.

It would seem that the circus didn’t adhere to council instructions to park beyond the “drip line” i.e. where the branches end which gives you a pretty good idea about where the roots end too. To illustrate what I’m talking about, in recent months, despite repeated warnings from the Friends groups and local tree experts, two enormous trees in Clissold Park called the “elephants feet” have been slated for felling because contractors parked under them.

I have always been very impressed by Ducketts Common. The protection of the verges of the common and careful mowing by Haringey Council and the work of the Friends Group (who I can’t seem to contact any more) have in previous years have made this a remarkable area for plant and insect biodiversity, despite being right next to a busy interchange and heavily used by residents. Despite a bit of litter and dog poo abuse, the edges of the common have usually been blooming beautiful at this time of year.

First the good news.

The biodiversity of the verges continues to surprise and delight - despite a lot of thuggish grasses - there are huge clover clumps (perfect for bees), oxeye daisies, knapweed, cranesbill and much more. While I was there I saw plenty of insect life is taking advantage of this.

Now the bad news.

The areas of damaged grass, I was informed, have been re-sown and I was told this would take 6 weeks to show improvement (I’m not clear when the common was re-seeded)

However, there are huge patches of bare earth which are not showing a lot of signs of recovery as yet, although clover is moving in slowly. Above are a few of the pictures I took on Saturday.

The grass *should* be thick, green and full of daisies as it is in some places near the edges.

Here’s why that matters. Daisies in grass mean insect life. This photo was taken cm from a bare patch.

To be honest, these bare patches are a depressing sight

It was pointed out to me in discussion that the Common has been used for events frequently, which is a fair point, but I can’t recall seeing such damage done to it before.

The beer festival, community events and small fairs have successfully used this space without damaging the site. I also know from an organisation that I used to be involved with, who staged a community event there, that the council are usually pretty strict with their rules about what can and can’t be done there. So something clearly went wrong here.

Questions do need to be raised about the type of event and who can use this site in the future. At the very least, the circus should not be permitted to return and no vehicles must be permitted at all to drive onto the grassy areas (which I thought was the policy).

Even if companies are fined, or charged for the damage, it’s simply not worth it if the price of an event is the loss of valuable habitat or death of irreplaceable trees.

Finally, using green spaces to raise cash must be balanced with the risks to the biodiversity of the site.

Small is beautiful for an area the size of the Common.

Tags for Forum Posts: biodiversity, ducketts common, events in parks, nature notes, trees

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Replies to This Discussion

Won’t heavy vehicles using this new fence for access cause damage to the surrounding trees roots?


Well that's why we've got to have this conversation I think. I'm not against the idea of the Common being used for events, especially community ones, as long as its not too often.

We need to know exactly what the policies for allowing companies to hire the Common are; what rules and regulations they are expected to abide by; what enforcement there is if they don't (fines after the event aren't sufficient); what the council is doing to safeguard the biodiversity of the site, which given its position and heavy usage is remarkable; and to react quickly to unusual conditions and give the public plenty of updates on what is happening.

I'm hoping Zena will help me set my mind at rest that the Common's eco-system has suffered no lasting damage from March. 

Hi Liz

I have asked about the damage and been told the circus will be paying fro all restoration. I would hope some lessons about who the site is let to have been learnt since it was so badly damaged. The underlying problem is, of course, financial. The parks budget has been cut so severely that they have to rely on income from events and activities - hence the use of Finsbury Park for gigs and festivals, and now Ducketts Common for events.  I thinks this needs reviewing to keep a balance but the cuts have been astronomical. 

Your detailed analysis of the issues is  really helpful and will form the basis of my next email to parks about the site. There is a Friends Group for Ducketts Common - small but involved.  They have been involved in developing the plans for some investment in Ducketts Common which should be happening very soon. There is over £100,000 Section 106 which is being spent on various things. I will look up the plans and post the list.



Zena Brabazon

Cllr, Harringay Ward

Thanks Zena. I have more photos if needed. Please find out if the tree inspection happened and if the Tree officers are satisfied that no lasting damage has been done. Also, assurances that the circus will not be permitted to hire the site again. Given time I’m sure the grass will recover as long as no other events come and cover it again. I get the financial pressure thing and have stated above that I don’t think small events run by responsible orgs are a problem but strict guidelines as to what kind of events are allowed should be adhered to. The circus was wrong for a space that size and this kind of thing must not happen again. As you say, lesson learned it is to be hoped and, hopefully, no lasting harm done. 

Am I imagining it, but hasn't the circus been there every year ? Wasn't there a child killed there some years ago ?

You’re thinking of the fair, John. As mentioned above. 

Circuses are usually at Ally Pally (well the good ones like the Russian or the Dutch state circus). There may also have been a circus at Finsbury Park in the past. 

Ah. That would be it.



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