Due to the COVID pandemic there was no CREOS AGM in 2020, and this report therefore covers two years. This was a period in which many of the regular CREOS events could not take place, there was no summer event on the meadow or Christmas party. Due to government restrictions, even workdays were cancelled for several months. The lockdowns had a big impact on the CREOS site, both positive and negative; it was good to see a much greater number of visitors to the site and these visitors have for the most part been very appreciative, and our membership has increased. However, the need for social distancing meant that many new desire-line paths were created, with walkers trampling through previously impenetrable bushes and brambles, both to keep a safe distance from each other and also to avoid the mud. Increased footfall and a lack of volunteers to repair the paths led to a very worrying state of affairs.

Fundraising Success

There have, however, been some very positive developments. Just before the pandemic began, a CREOS fundraiser was launched in order to turn the muddy puddles of the Boundary Oak Walk into a firm and durable surface. Thanks to the generosity of our members, this fundraiser raised a total of £1,340, enabling us to have a lorry-load of hoggin delivered to the nearby NLCC car park. The path was ready with new log-edging and firm foundations, and barrowing this up and transporting it to the path would only have taken a few weeks had the first lockdown not stopped our eager Good Gym volunteers from attending. Despite the shovelling of hoggin taking months rather than weeks, the local volunteers who stepped up to the mark became such experts in path-making and drainage that their skills were just what was needed when other paths flooded the following winter. They have done their best to drain the water off the Lower Path and the Meadow path and these have now been covered with woodchips again. Eventually, when funds and a supply of volunteers permit, the plan is to cover these paths with hoggin too.

Work On Copse & Paths

In addition to the extensive path work that has been done on the CREOS site during this two-year period, we are pleased to report that, with the permission of Highgate Wood School, CREOS has planted a small copse of twenty or more trees in the corner of the school’s playing field, to incorporate this muddy and unusable area into the woodland surroundings and extend the Woodland Walks. A small hedgerow has also been planted to form a new border to this copse and all of this has been fenced off to protect the planting for a few years until the trees are well-established. We are grateful to the Conservation Volunteers for their help with this work and to OVO energy for the donation of the trees, and to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England for the hedgerow plants.

The hazel coppice that was planted three years ago now is thriving, despite three saplings having been crushed by a large tree that fell over the path last year and despite the creation of two new desire-line paths, one for social distancing and the other leading to the tent of our now firmly – established camper, who has been living in the CREOS bushes for three years. We remain in touch with Haringey on how to deal with this problem.

The smaller hazel coppice area, at the side of the meadow where the Japanese Knotweed was, has been badly trampled; old bushes, new planting and dead-hedging have been broken down and families were even seen picnicking in that area during the summer months. It is to be hoped that this has not lead to the spread of Japanese Knotweed, but at least the area has now been closed again with more planting and restored dead-hedging. Luckily the small stands of Knotweed near the North London path and near the allotments have not spread visibly as a result of not being treated during lockdown.

The CREOS wildflower meadow in the corner of the school sports field has flowered well for two years now and is looking very promising as it comes into its third year. The reduction in mowing of the school field itself during lockdown has also lead to a greater abundance of buttercups, daisies and other flowers along the edges of the field.

Lockdown Issues

Sadly the improved biodiversity of the school field has been marred by one of the more unwelcome activities of the lockdown. Many groups of young people have used the site at nights, meeting in groups around bonfires. Not only has this lead to several ugly patches of burned grass and loads of litter, but also the CREOS dead-hedges and path-edging logs were often raided to provide firewood, destroying much of the hard work done by our volunteers. Some of these anti-social groups also caused thousands of £’s of damage to the cricket clubs nearby, damaging fences, wickets and outbuildings as they climbed over to steal benches to sit on for their parties. The neighbouring allotments too suffered more than one attack of arson, causing extensive damage. CREOS has been working closely with the Shepherd’s Cot Trust, the police and the Neighbourhood Watch to stamp out this anti-social behaviour.

On a more positive note, we have collaborated with the SCT in their production of new signs on their site and are pleased to say that the CREOS Woodland Walks are now marked on all the maps and signposts. We have however, not been successful in stopping the installation of further floodlights on the Georgians tennis courts, although our objection on Haringey’s planning website may hopefully lead to some mitigation and more careful use of the floodlights overall.

Boundary Oaks

One of the most magnificent features of the CREOS Woodland walks are the boundary oaks that date back over 200 years. These veteran oaks form a line from the NLCC car park to the allotments access road and then turn at a right angle along the fence that borders the gardens of Wood Vale. Not only are these trees beautiful to look at, but each one produces hundreds of thousands of litres of oxygen per year and supports thousands of species of birds, insects, lichen and fungus. Care for these trees forms part of our management plan and it is distressing therefore that two of these trees were pruned recently at the request of local homeowners without us being informed. We will shortly be circulating information to all neighbouring properties on the benefits and responsibilities of living next to a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation.

I would like to thank the committee for their hard work throughout these difficult times and also the small band of intrepid volunteers who worked on our paths in all weathers. As lockdown gradually comes to an end CREOS workdays can resume, and more of us will be out there to help. It is hoped that if all goes well it will be possible to once again hold the CREOS Summer Event towards the end of June. We look forward to seeing you all again, out on our beautiful meadow that has provided us with such solace in these difficult times.

Glenys Law, Chair
May 2021