Monday, 19 October 2015

HABITAT DESTRUCTION ON THE RAILWAY

This Wren has every reason to look worried. At the current rate of hedgerow removal it won't have a home, most of it's valuable winter berries have been felled and removed already. And it's home has been demolished.
I of course refer to the Brampton Valley railway/cycle path.
AND PLEASE DON'T THINKING I'M TALKING ABOUT A BIT OF SENSIBLE PRUNING/MANAGEMENT OR FLAILING OF HEDGES. It's destruction on a massive scale so far, as I fear more is to come. This is completely unacceptable and no real need, not whilst the hedges were full of berries. The hedge wasn't some recent hedge planted by well meaning landowners, this was a mature hedge, Rowan berries, Blackberries, Elderberry and Hawthorne along with rough vegetation at it's edge with teasels and nettles and mature trees too meant it was a magnet for small birds and bigger birds too.
Blackbirds, Song Thrush, Goldfinch (hundreds of them), Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Starlings, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Goldcrest, Treecreepers, Nuthatch, Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Wagtails, Yellow Wagtails, Yellowhammers, Linnet's Wren, Robin just some of the common species easily seen using the hedgerow in great numbers then there's the summer only visitors Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Turtle Dove and even Common Redstart. This hedgerow was a real stronghold for common breeding birds, Summer visitors and was proving and invaluable stop over for birds (especially small birds) on migration. Barn Owl's, Little Owl's, Kestrels often seen to..as I've covered in previous blog posts.
SO THE QUESTIONS ARE WHY? WHO? AND ON WHO'S BEHALF/ORDER?
Firstly let me give you one of my 'special maps' to give you an idea of not only the scale of destruction but possibly as to why/who has done it.
The Blue lines indicate the hedges and trees that have been 'removed', so far. The three blue lines on the left near Merry Tom Lane were hacked down a couple months back by people on Community Service. Right when the Elderberry were ripe and plentiful. Home to many nesting Chiffchaff (hadn't finished breeding). Nesting Blackbirds, Wren, Dunnock and favoured by a huge flock of Goldfinch. Branches of mature trees were hacked off too but IMPORTANTLY NOT BRANCHES OVERHANGING THE FIELDS. So we can rule out the farmer trying to expand his field, it isn't his 'doing'
The Blue line above the yellow arrow Mr.Z and I aren't exactly sure when it was done. We both were last there a week back. Turn up Sunday and again tree branches cut, trees reduced to stumps, hedges removed and the berries (mostly Hawthorne) left piled up on the side. Basically butchered on a massive scale.
WHY?
WELL IT ISN'T TO MAKE NEGOTIATING THE FOOTPATH EASIER NOR TO PREVENT DAMAGE TO TRAIN PASSING.
The above image (hedgerow untouched so far on left hand side of image) perfectly demonstrates this point. But even better, ignore the Blackbird, he's homeless now.
Just past the white fence post (squint, lol) approximately 10 yards in the distance is where the hedgerow destruction begins. I fear left unchecked and questions not asked the hedgerow coming towards the Blackbird will also go. If regular readers look on the right hand side  you'll see a dead tree that was used a perch for the Whinchat, Redstart and Lesser Whitethroat this year.
Redstart
Just recently the folk at the railway wish to extend to railway line by two miles in length. It's believed to being extended over the bridge (Yellow arrow on map image), however as Mr.Z pointed out they'd have to put in a crossing at Merry Tom Lane and the bridge on the railway line section is beyond repair. BUT THE BRIDGE IS OK ON THE PATH SIDE. Which in my opinion could be the reason for the hedge removal ie swap the track over onto footpath, strengthen bridge etc, and have the footpath go alongalong were the tracks currently are (reducing costs) . The section first removed a few months back used for storage of building equipment?... maybe. Or was it misguided person in charge of the Community Service work party under council orders? Personally I know which I believe it was.
But why bother closing a popular and well used footpath just to extend a railway line by a couple of miles. I know of many cyclists who commute from Brixworth, Maidwell, Hanging Houghton and the Brampton's into Northampton in safety without having to negotiate dodgy and busy A-roads...not for long!
I don't even hate the railway. I grew up next to the classic Bluebell railway so actually love seeing classic trains. But it's hardly beautiful. In fact this is the area the people who run the railway should consider spending their money on instead, in my opinion. And perhaps on the station too.
The trains used aren't exactly beautiful and there's plenty of stuff rusting away that could be 'beautified' instead, I mean imagine you're a train enthusiast and having visited perhaps the Bluebell or even travelled on the Graf Spey how disappointed would you be when you see this
Or this?
"WELCOME TO BRAMPTON VALLEY RAILWAY". YOU SHOULD SEE THE ROLLING STOCK HONESTLY NOT MUCH BETTER. Two miles of extra track or not would you pay good money and travel to see such beauty? It'd be a hard sell for even the Northants Tourist Board.
So my question is was it misguided council vandalism or is it vandalism by the Brampton railway? And will the guilty party replace/plant the hedge row and trees in time for next spring? Will either the council or Brampton Valley railway like to comment or respond?

11 comments:

  1. That's terrible news, Doug. I suspect your theory about moving track might be correct. It looks as if foootpath and railway were onec part of the same (double) trackbed and the substrate of the footpath would, therefore, be suitable for laying track on.

    I suggest you write to the railway ASAP. You can find their contact details at http://www.nlr.org.uk/nlrps/contacting-nlrps/ (you'll probably need to cut and paste that as I don't think comments will automatically link), together with the names of all the officials of the railway. Tell them that you're going to form a local protest group and contact the press, including the railway press (I can let you have contact information for the key railway magazines).

    Good luck and best wishes - - - - Richard

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    1. I'm not 100% convinced it was the railway group acting alone as the Community service crew were used so suspect council was involved too.
      Thanks for the info and help that will be very helpful indeed, sadly I just get the level destructiondestruction. Hopefully once people realise they will loose part of the cycle way permanently opposition will be easier to rustle up but at the moment people obviously like the idea of a longer railway.

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    2. The railway will soon put you right if the Council were involved, Doug. The railway has more to lose than the council so, I reckon, are more likely to react postively to protests.

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    3. Cheers Richard. I'll get on it.

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  2. This is awful. It has all the hallmarks of the council though looking at the locos I suspect it could be either.
    I have managed to persuade two farmers to flail in February as by the the birds will have eaten what they want from the hedges.

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    1. It's a tricky one to apportion blame as the footpath is council so would've imagined it was council too. But with planning permission needed the railway people probably thought if they got rid of hedgerow they'd weaken opposition.
      Great to hear you persuaded two farmers to hold fire with the flailing until February.

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  3. Definitely looks as though there's something about to happen around that bridge area Douglas. Whatever it is I'm sure that they didn't need to lay waste to such a large area?
    The same thing has happened just a few hundred yards from where I live, they're opening up an old (disused) bus lane as part of the new A5-M1 link road scheme and have hacked down all the trees/bushes over a much larger area than the actual road will need...it's soul destroying to see and all done in the name of progress!!

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    1. It is soul destroying and I can't even console myself by pretending it's all progress more a case of regression. The station/train isn't even that popular it always looks empty as it lurches pass, the pub at the station is more popular. It sucks.

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  4. Heartbreaking to see Doug. Happens all too often these days and all over the country.

    I wonder at the wisdom of space exploration and the search for planets that could sustain human life, when we can't even look after our own planet and all its inhabitants.

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    1. Hah, couple of mates and I were talking about the very same thing the other day. We came to the conclusion that it's really only the super rich, corporations and government types that could possibly go to space so we send them with a one way ticket and leave this perfectly good planet to those who would rather care for it then destroy it

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  5. I have just found the posting by chance. I am a volunteer at Northampton Steam Railway and deal with the track and signalling. I'm not aware that we've received any enquiries regarding this and can see how people can get frustrated if they think something is going and equally that without answers it is also possible to start jumping to conclusions. I can dispel a number of concerns straight away.

    Yes we do plan ultimately to extend north, and have agreement for this to take place as well as planning consent and the required Transport and Works Act. However, this will not involve losing the cycle way/Brampton Valley Way, which will stay on its alignment on the eastern side. The bridge referred to does require work first, but so too would bridge on the footpath side and it would be impractical to switch sides, so we have not been engaged in clearance works to lose the footpath and move the railway. That will not be happening and in any case the footpath will remain a feature of the route as well as the railway line.

    Whilst we have Community Payback helping us, the team helping us would not have touched the section of embankment on the east side north of that bridge, and I'm aware that the embankment was completely cleared a couple of years ago apart from the very large oak tree, but that was not instigated by us and I don't think by Community Payback were involved either.

    We have done clearance on our side in the past to keep the railway telegraph wires clear of vegetation and we only prune back parts of limbs of trees where these are likely to interfere with the railway. We have retained a number of trees along the western side of the railway on this part of the route, although have suffered with the blackthorn and the last blackthorn that we retained on the section near the bridge on the western side of the track came down in a gale only recently and it is possible to see where the trunk snapped as the wind acted on the weight of the tree above this.

    We've noted concerns regarding berries etc, and where we have to do work on our side will look to see how we can time this to see that winter berries etc are available. We're also looking into how we can rotate our future vegetation management so that we don't unintentionally obliterate everything.

    When we do eventually extend the 2 miles north, we are taking advice from habitat experts to ensure that our works do not impact, for there will be some clearance works where vegetation has encroached in on both sides and we only intend to cut back what we have to, retaining as much biodiversity along both sides of the former railway/Brampton Valley Way.

    On a separate note, the railway has suffered from a lot of vandalism and so some areas we store rolling stock we've had scrap metal theft, general vandalism and graffiti to put up with. We are a volunteer run organisation and it is demoralising when our efforts are wasted by minded individuals (much in the same way you don't want vandalism of the surrounding habitats), and some of the worst examples you have photographed are items that we are now looking to send to get rid from the site and even send to the scrap yard and following unwanted attention from the misfits of society, some items are beyond help. We'd love to send these on a one way ticket off the planet, although that would be a waste of natural resources in itself.

    We want to work with any local groups, so would welcome any constructive feedback in relation to the future management of vegetation adjoining the railway as we want to see everyone happy and able to enjoy their pursuits.

    Graham Peacock, Northampton Steam Railway

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