It’s no exaggeration to say that the past year has been transformational for the CREOS Open Space. Much as we loved our wood-chip paths, there’s no denying that they became a muddy mess as soon as there was any heavy rain. Due to the massive efforts we’ve made this year, almost all the paths are now surfaced with hoggin, some having been raised above flooding levels where necessary, and many of them now edged with our trademark logs from home-grown trees. It was creating the Boundary Oak Walk in 2019 that gave us the confidence to make hoggin paths ourselves, thus saving on the huge expense of getting it done professionally, and our small team of dedicated volunteers have become very skilled at the job.

A New Path across the Meadow

In the autumn of 2021, funded by donations from CREOS members along with a £1,000 grant from Haringey, work began on the Lower Path. This first involved sourcing and laying the edging logs, and fortunately a dangerous tree next to the Hanley car park needed to be felled at this exact time. Aggregate was laid to form a base and raise the level where necessary, which was then compacted and topped with hoggin. This was heavy work which took several weeks, much of it in wind and rain, with the aim to finish before Christmas.

As the work neared completion it became apparent that the path branching off towards the meadow still had such a serious drainage problem that a boardwalk would be the only answer. We quickly launched a fundraiser to finance this, but soon discovered that costs would be around £5,000. Fortunately our volunteers are not just skilful but also resourceful; they decided to simply extend the path work already underway, raising the level a bit higher. Then, borrowing the ideas of the professional installer, they created two soakaways instead of drainage ditches, which would store any excess rainfall while hidden from view. This was easily and quickly achieved and cost a tiny fraction of the professional quote.

It soon became apparent however that the newly laid paths simply encouraged more people to walk towards the meadow only to find it was an impassable muddy bog. Walkers were constantly seeking ways round the mud, some even pushing through shrubs and undergrowth to seek firmer ground, breaking branches and trampling vegetation underfoot. Our much loved meadow was getting destroyed! With global warming, increased footfall and increased rainfall, we could see that the situation would only get worse and we were forced to return to the thorny question of whether we should link our paths up with a path across the meadow. An agreement was finally reached after meeting with The Conservation Volunteers who were shocked at the degradation of the meadow and firm in their advice that we needed to build a path in order to protect it from further erosion and loss of biodiversity. We had to accept that nothing stands still in life, and sometimes you have to accept change to protect the things you love.

We were spurred in to action by the receipt of a very generous donation, on condition that the path be built sooner rather than later. Once the decision had been taken, the plans soon fell into place; the path would be raised so that it would remain above the water table at all times, but earth would be built up along the sides and reseeded so that, as the grass recovered the path would be barely noticeable. It was also a perfect opportunity to create a new wildflower patch in the areas where the grass had been destroyed. Thanks to the generous contributions that came flooding in to our fundraiser, we were able to start immediately and the job was finished in just four weeks! An opening ceremony was held on 28 April, naming it ‘Alan’s path.’

There were additional benefits to this work, with enough hoggin left over to repair other paths too. Alan’s path was extended well beyond the meadow, and more work was done to the Lower path. The Woodland walk (leading to Queen’s Wood), was shored up at the top end and rotten wood edgings were removed, leaving it looking good as new.

Although we once again had to cancel both the summer event and the Christmas party due to COVID, we nonetheless continued our very sociable picnics after our monthly workdays, gaining many new members as a result.

Our hazel coppice is looking great, the newly planted trees in the corner of the school field are flourishing and the field itself looks like a country meadow, full of buttercups and daisies. There can be no doubt that this year has led to a big gain in biodiversity!

New website

Not only does CREOS have new paths, but also an impressive new website fit for the modern age, ready to recruit new members and make it easier to join, and most importantly designed to work well on a mobile phone. It will also be easier to keep the new website up to date with current events and developments.

Challenges ahead

The year ahead however presents a number of challenges. We have concerns over an upcoming planning application from Hornsey Cricket club, to build a new sports hall 8.5 metres high on land currently occupied by its unused tennis courts. The land is of course designated as Metropolitan Open Land (MOL), which has a similar status to Green Belt land. MOL is reserved for outdoor activities, and new building is not usually permitted. It was in order to defend this open ground status that CREOS was initially founded and our position would therefore be to oppose these plans.

There are also plans from the Shepherds Cot Trust itself for further building on the site, and they too have approached Haringey council for a pre-planning consultation. These plans are to expand Highgate tennis club’s Brookfield site, incorporating the tennis court that previously belonged to Holly Park, widening the lane now known as Cot Way, and replacing the corrugated iron clubhouse with a more robust structure. These plans are intended to improve the site, but our concern here would be for the retention of two mature trees – an ash and an oak.

Finally, a big challenge for CREOS is finding a replacement for our long-standing treasurer Julian Sherwood, who is retiring at the end of this year after 28 years’ stalwart service. Julian has always been one of the major pillars of CREOS and replacing him will be a daunting challenge. Please let us know if you can help, or if know anyone who might be interested.

Glenys Law

May 2022