Our regular workdays are held on the third Sunday of the month, 11am to 1pm. All CREOS members are encouraged to come along and help keep our green space maintained and tidy. During 2019 we intend to start implementing the management plan that the London Wildlife Trust has helped to produce (see below).
Open Meeting, Thursday 22nd November
The new CREOS Management Plan was unveiled at a presentation by the Director of Conservation at London Wildlife Trust, Mathew Frith, and their Conservation Ecologist, Mike Waller, at a well-attended meeting at the Hanley Tennis Club.
The plan contains an easy to use calendar of conservation and management activities, most of which we can all get involved with, some of which will require professional tree work and all of which will improve biodiversity across CREOS. See the news article below for more details.
So, when you hear depressing news about dramatic declines in biodiversity and think ‘well I can’t do anything about that’ – think again! Being a CREOS member, making a donation, or turning up to volunteer on a work day, means more woodland management tasks can be done. Spreading the word about the benefits of woodland management, especially for improving biodiversity in secondary woodland, means that more local people will get to understand that a spot of pruning can bring woodland wildlife flooding in – a very positive thing for us all.
Never mind the Aurochs here’s the Management Plan
What’s the difference between an ancient and a secondary woodland? Well, if you were to enter CREOS from Queens Wood via the Woodland Walk the answer to that question is – about a metre, but in biodiversity terms the difference is vast.
The ancient oak and hornbeam of Queens Wood houses great biodiversity because it is structurally varied with trees of all ages making lots of different habitats for a huge variety of species. Large breaks in the mature oak canopy encourage a rich understory and ground flora, which in turn forms a nursery area for the mature trees of tomorrow. Contrast this to the secondary woodland of CREOS – woodland that has developed on previously cleared ground – here we have a closed out canopy formed by evenly-aged trees that are, in places, very densely packed and tall because they have shot up together competing for sunlight, and beneath them, in the virtual perma-shade – very little variety.
So what’s the big deal? Secondary woodland is what we have and it’ll be ancient woodland eventually – right? No, unfortunately, not. Often secondary woodland fails. Trees of uniform age can all die off or get blown over together leaving a huge clearing which – you’ve guessed it, gradually becomes colonised in the exact same way as before. It may surprise you to learn that the major player in the creation of biodiverse ancient woodland has actually been human and animal activities. Back in the day, woodlands were a vital resource which were heavily used for multiple purposes: timber for building and fuel; vegetation and fodder for large herbivores (for fun look up the Auroch or super cow) and grazing animals. Over centuries the
effect of all this disturbance and activity was huge variation. Many woods today, like ours at CREOS, are untouched because the general perception of natural spaces is that they should be left alone. However, managing secondary woodland is actually a way of ensuring the woodland survives and, in a happy coincidence, it also increases biodiversity. Whether it’s careful selective thinning to create significant gaps in the canopy promoting natural regeneration, or coppicing hazel (most usually) on a two to four year cycle to produce fantastic variation, woodland management techniques create mixed woodland with a varied structure and tree age, which positively affects biodiversity surprisingly quickly. As an example, the recent reintroduction of coppicing practices in nearby Coldfall Woods increased the number of ground flora species present from 48 to 156 in just one year.
With the UN reporting staggering losses in global biodiversity, the consequence of which is curtains for us all, there really is no time like the present to turn this around. At CREOS we are on the case! Our summer of surveying together with the expertise of the ecologists at London Wildlife Trust has resulted in a new Management Plan for increased biodiversity, which we will be implementing in 2019.
Alice Shaell, CREOS Committee
The CREOS Summer Event took place in hot sunshine on Sunday July 8th. We enjoyed live music from Gregor Grant and his band 'All Shook Up', plus games, prizes and a raffle. The barbeques were working flat out as many people enjoyed their picnics in the meadow. Once again a successful event, and thanks to all the members of CREOS who helped to organise the day.
The guest speaker was Edward Milner, a professional ecologist, a patron of the Tree Trust for Haringey and a Spider Recorder for London. He gave a most interesting talk on 'The sex life of spiders', describing the diversity of spiders living in London and in the local open space around us, and then answered a wide range of questions from members.
Our chair, Glenys, gave a short talk summarising the main events and activities over the past year, and our treasurer, Julian, summarised our financial position which is healthy. The committee was re-elected with no changes. Afterwards members had the opportunity to socialise over a glass of wine. Our thanks to the Hanley Club for allowing us to hold the AGM in their clubhouse.
Does my biodiversity look big in this?
Readers of CREOS news this autumn will be aware of our commitment to maximise biodiversity across the CREOS land and you’ll be delighted to know we’ve started already! As you’ll know from our article biodiversity doesn’t just happen on its own and to give nature that helping hand we need to develop and work from a management plan. To get us on the starting blocks, London Wildlife Trusts’ Director of Conservation, Mathew Frith, visited our site in early November and we’re thrilled that he has agreed to work closely with us in the production of the management plan we need.
Encouragingly, he said that much of our woodland is in good condition and can be managed at relatively low cost. The area that is predominantly birch and hornbeam as you enter the Woodland Walk from Queen’s Wood has an understory of ivy, holly and bramble and as long as one species does not begin to dominate these are all excellent native plants supporting high level of biomass. Unfortunately, as we approach the end of the path there has been an invasion of cherry laurel which we should seek to remove as it is a ‘non-native invasive’ that takes up the niche of native plants like the bramble and holly which bring so much more biodiversity.
Mathew commented that the woodland ride running south from our main entrance off the allotment access road would be a good place to start a coppice, to achieve this we would need to selectively fell some of the more spindly mature ash and poplar to open up the canopy more, then we should look to plant 20 or so hazel saplings on either side of the path, when they reach about 2m in height we should divide each side into two areas and coppice one area in turn annually. This would give us a large range of stages of coppiced woodland, each supporting its own particular biomass, the combination creating much greater biodiversity.
He also noticed that we have what he described as ‘boundary oaks’ in the area surrounding the North London path. These, along with others clearly visible on the adjacent Shepherd’s Cot Trust land, we should seek to protect with individual TPOs (and we have started this process already), he advised that we should also inform the Ancient Tree Forum of their presence as, whilst these oaks are not what is termed ‘ancient’ yet, they will be well on their way and are part of the chain of priceless natural capital that ancient woodland is.
Where we can achieve most changes to positively affect biodiversity are on the fringes of our open spaces (the meadow, the school field and the car parks and road verges). Here the practice of scalloping (clearing 10m wide shallow curves around the edge of an open space) into the surrounding scrub and woodland fringe will give us areas that are taken right back to the start of the ecological succession process. A few scallops cut and then left to regenerate every year would create a patchwork of different stages of succession, and, similarly to coppicing, would massively increase biodiversity. It’s all about the shape of your ecotone apparently.
Mathew was very supportive of our plan to create a wildflower meadow and thought our hope to position it in the corner of the school field diagonally opposite the entrance from the lane at the end of Montenotte Road was excellent. All native wildflowers (including Michaelmas daisies for any plant snobs out there!) are brilliant for raising insect levels which is something of great current concern across Europe (see the Insects and Us article in the newsletter if you haven’t read it already). He suggested we should consider creating more opportunity for day round sunlight in the patch by selectively felling some of the younger poplars in the immediate vicinity – this feels like a good place to create an early scallop.
At Mathew’s suggestion the London Wildlife Trust will be returning to CREOS in the spring to begin the process of creating the management plan and we’d hope to have the plan written and fully supported by Haringey Council and Highgate Wood School by the end of summer ‘18. The plan will be published here on our website and will serve as a practical guide for our woodland workdays and for any conservation volunteer groups who want to come and help out. It is crucial for our members and indeed the public at large to understand the value of this area of nature and a management plan supported by the London Wildlife Trust and being actively carried out will demonstrate that the area has significant ecological value, this is a huge step towards the sustainability of the CREOS land into the future.
Alice Shaell, CREOS Committee, Nov 2017.
Japanese Knotweed Eradication
We have hopefully cleared the Japanese Knotweed from the north side of the Meadow, although it is persistent and may return. We have also found small pockets at other locations on the CREOS site and intend to treat those too in coming months. Please be aware that this is a highly invasive plant and if you come across it do not touch or interfere with it, as it can spread from the smallest fragment.