Forty years ago, in May 1984, the CREOS constitution was drawn up; a typewritten document, stamped and signed by hand. It still serves its purpose well, but has never been amended or updated. We have had discussions this year on ways in which it can be improved, digitalized and put on the CREOS website. Although the constitution does not mention the number of trustees required, there have always been three. We are pleased to announce that Rob Jackson has agreed to take over the role of third trustee, following Julian Sherwood’s retirement. We are lucky to have Rob’s expertise and sound judgement on board.

Despite our constitution’s archaic format, the objects of the society have served us well: a) To conserve, protect and enhance the Crouch End Playing Fields as an area of open space for public recreation b) To conserve and protect the area as a natural habitat for a wide variety of wildlife c) To encourage and assist the public use for these purposes of the parts of the area to which the public have customarily had access.

In pursuit of object a), we have offered our support to local groups objecting to Hornsey CC’s plans to build a large indoor cricket facility on their site. The club has not yet submitted a formal application but CREOS is watching the situation closely. In similar vein we have been vigilant in monitoring all planning applications, to ensure that all clubs on site respect the concept of the space being for public outdoor recreation and not for commercial exploitation. The private gardens of domestic properties backing onto our woodland walks can be crucial to the health of the environment too, and we do our best to raise awareness of this; where necessary we have voiced our objections to basement excavations, garden rooms and swimming pools.

In pursuit of object b), we have planted another hedgerow in the area adjacent to Queen’s Wood. Hedgerows are very important for biodiversity, providing a habitat and a succession of flowers and fruits for birds, insects and small mammals. We have taken advice on hedgerow management and in a few years’ time we will be ready to thicken them up by laying or pruning.

Another boost for insect life is provided by our wildflower meadow on the school field. A new more robust fence has been erected and an extended area has been dug for the planting of more seeds. This should provide a colourful display of new annuals alongside the perennials that have now become quite well established.

Our growing expertise in the cultivation of wildflower meadows will hopefully be shared later this year with the North Middlesex Cricket Club whom we approached in relation to their recent scrub and bramble clearance. We let them know we were pleased to see that groups of young trees have been saved and offered our assistance in planting a bank of wildflowers alongside their new junior cricket pitch.

Continuing to follow the Management plan for biodiversity devised for us by the London Wildlife Trust, we have now begun coppicing the hazels we planted 6 years ago, with the aim of creating a bushy understory to provide a habitat for a greater variety of creatures.

Our work to remove invasive species has continued, with particular attention to the Japanese Knotweed adjacent to the meadow. Very few shoots now remain but any that re-appear will be immediately treated.

Our regular monthly workdays have been well-attended and one of the most important tasks undertaken is the building of dead-hedges to prevent trampling and give new plants a chance to get established. Upgrading our paths, replacing wood-chip with a hoggin surface, also helps to keep people on track. Further work is currently taking place to improve the path that leads to the meadow so that a mud-free route will be provided across the whole site by next winter.

CREOS has also been involved in protecting the trees that make our site so special. Following the sudden felling of the avenue of much-loved poplars at Georgians, we met with the SCT to emphasise the importance of our trees. It was agreed that there will be full transparency and advance planning of all future tree work, and that this is to be communicated to all clubs on site. Planning permission for the new courts at the Brookside club now contains specific guidelines for the protection of trees during the works. Just one large tree is likely to be lost and this is because its removal is necessary to make Cot Way safer for pedestrians.

Several trees have fallen this year as a result of decay or high winds, some blocking the paths and needing urgent removal. Fortunately we have been able to remove them promptly with the help of our local tree-surgeon. In addition to managing our existing trees we have planted a large number of new trees, including a special rowan in memory of Tim Denby-Wood, our long-serving colleague, friend and ex- CREOS Chair.

Finally, in pursuit of object c) of the CREOS constitution, we have had discussions with Highgate Wood School and the Shepherd’s Cot Trust over future plans to upgrade the top field and return it to use as a school sports field. We have made it clear that this is a piece of land to which the public have customarily had access and that it is a much-loved open space. The plans are still at the design stage, but it is hoped that a compromise will be reached between the needs of both the school and the public.

Access to the CREOS meadow and its benches has also been improved during the course of the year. Alan’s path across the meadow has stood up well to record-breaking rainfall. The benches had sunk into the mud over the years, but they have been raised and set in concrete by Myco construction as part of their corporate sustainability work. Subsequently CREOS volunteers have started adding better drainage round the benches so that they can be accessed in all weathers.

Glenys Law,   April 2024