Home North London Highgate and Queen’s woods are being damaged

Highgate and Queen’s woods are being damaged


The residents of north London are lucky to have plenty of woodland areas to get pleasure from.

These woods have, maybe, by no means been as necessary as within the final 12 months, as lockdowns and restrictions have hampered our potential to journey additional afield.

Highgate Wood and its sister, Queen’s Wood, which unfold out both aspect of Muswell Hill Road and Hampstead Heath, with its combination of woods and grassland, have been important to our well-being. 

Although they’ve all the time been standard year-round with canine walkers and nature lovers alike, it has solely been up to now 12 months {that a} wet, chilly, January Tuesday within the wooden will likely be full of households, joggers and walkers, eager to get their “hour” of train.

This, after all, is great – it is crucial that as many individuals as doable ought to know and love the character on their doorstep. How else will they be motivated to guard and nurture it?  

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But this new-found love of the woods has some severe drawbacks. Increased footfall to those areas has seen degradation and destruction of those mighty, but fragile, habitats.

None extra so, than within the peaceable oases of Highgate and Queen’s Woods: their small sizes are turning into more and more unable to deal with the variety of guests they see on a, now day by day, foundation.

Park Rangers, who handle these invaluable belongings, have witnessed fewer and fewer birds and different creatures that decision these locations residence over the previous 10 years and a speedy decline within the final 12 months or so. 

Our woodlands, the lungs of north London, are being damaged repeatedly by the very guests who discover them such a wealthy playground and emotional sanctuary.

Some search out the flora and fauna, venturing additional and additional into the undergrowth to benefit from the sights and sounds of nature: a woodpecker drumming rhythmically because it states its territory to different, answering drummers all through the wooden in late January and early February, the chitter-chatter of the blue and nice tits as they flit from the bramble and holly bushes to the branches of the bigger bushes and the attractive track of the robin, blackbird and wren as they, too, declare their territories and discover their mates. A short glimpse of a sparrowhawk could make the spirit soar. 

A den in the woods

A den within the woods

– Credit: Clare James

Others choose to get “busy”, constructing dens and taking part in “survival” video games, or making rope swings the place a large number of toes scrape the earth naked and barren. 

Few appear content material with strolling on the numerous well-managed paths across the woods and merely respiratory within the therapeutic properties of the earth and bushes.

We go “off-road” to create our personal adventures, or to search out the solitude we crave. New paths are carved out among the many leaf-litter. Den after den is constructed by households of younger kids who are brimming with vitality and curiosity, fuelled by the upsurge of the Forest School ethos. Dams are constructed throughout water channels, blocking their potential to stop the woodland tracks from flooding. 

All this exercise is vastly damaging to the woodland ecosystem. Delicate balances are knocked out of kilter. The internet of life within the woods is being disrupted. Fungi has nowhere to spawn and play its function within the lifecycle of the bushes. Moss and lichen, which needs to be discovered on most deadwood and on the trunks of older bushes, is sparse and often non-existent. Woodland flowers, corresponding to lesser celandine and wooden anemone are now turning into a rarity. Bugs, grubs and bugs, which thrive in undisturbed leaf-litter and decaying fallen branches, have fewer and fewer locations to dwell. They ought to present meals for the birds (some year-round, others throughout nesting season as they attempt to discover sufficient bugs to feed their rising households), however they’ll now not assist the numbers of birds we used to have. The wooden is ravenous. And we are guilty.

It is time to indicate our woodlands just a little love and respect. Next time you go into the woods, take a while to marvel on the marvel of nature. And go away it as you discovered it.

  • Clare James is a instructor, residing in Finsbury Park and usually working in Muswell Hill.

Clare James

Clare James

– Credit: Clare James