On Sunday we posted a link to a petition asking the City Council and Heritage Lottery Fund to reconsider their plans to chop down some trees in Alexandra Park.
It was on our “to do” list to get a statement from the Council (still is) – but in the meantime, this has come through from Chris Sedman.
UPDATE: We’ve added 6th December statement from HLF to the bottom of this post.
They’ve counted pretty much anything with a significant trunk, including self-sown things like sycamores all crowded together; hence what seems like a very high figure (254) of ‘trees’ under 500mm girth. The main tree lined walk is untouched, 11 large trees over 500mm girth go for various reasons – mainly safety.
74 new individual trees are added, 18 fruit trees and the new structure planting includes oak, rowan, cherry, beech, crab apples and lots of other wildlife friendly natives. There will also be many 100s of new flowering & berried plants and shrubs.
As a Garden Designer I’ve taken considerable interest in the proposals, especially the new planting.
These are the main reasons why I believe the tree felling in Alexandra Park should proceed as planned:
1 Biodiversity is crucial and far bigger and more important than just about having trees
2 The park at the moment is very limited in the range of trees/shrubs/plants used and is relatively dead & sterile in biodiversity terms for such a large wooded area – especially the raised walkway
3 At its creation the area was heavily polluted which severely restricted the trees/shrubs/plants that could be used because most things wouldn’t survive it
4 The raised walkway area is mainly one type of grubby sycamore and grass – almost monoculture; it’s not original and was created as a budget- cutting measure ~ 1960s. This is the opposite and enemy of biodiversity
5 I’ve examined the planting plans in great detail and the proposed planting of a wider range of trees, shrubs and perennials will dramatically increase the range of wildlife friendly planting
6 Crucially they incorporate nectar rich flowers and berries over a long period which is essential to increased biodiversity
7 We need to act now to protect the park for future generations – we’re only enjoying it now thanks to the far sightedness off the Victorians.
My only mild criticism is that the planting could be even more adventurous.
We should be celebrating this, not trying to wreck it. The headline should be:
‘New Wildlife Haven to be Created in Neglected City Park. Hundreds of New Wildlife Friendly Trees & Shrubs to be Planted: Local People Delighted!’
Hope these facts bring a bit of perspective to the debate!
UPDATE 6th December: Statement from Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund
Alexandra Park, Manchester – Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund statement
Alexandra Park, Manchester – Tree management as part of park restoration.
In December 2011, Manchester City Council (MCC) was awarded £2.2million to restore Alexandra Park through the national Parks for People programme run by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Big Lottery Fund (BIG).
Sara Hilton, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said on behalf of HLF and BIG: “We recognise that there is public concern over the proposed tree felling at Alexandra Park and we are in discussion with Manchester City Council to agree a way forward. Inevitably, there are difficult decisions to make on any major park restoration but MCC, HLF and BIG want to ensure that all views are considered as the project is taken forward. We do not encourage unnecessary tree felling and want to continue to ensure that the funding from HLF and BIG enables the park to be developed so it fully reflects the needs of users and the local community.”
HLF Press Office: Laura Bates on 020 7591 6027, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Who to trust? This sounds like a job for Dave Bishop!
Seeing is believing.I reserve judgement.To many contridictions,too many opinions.Everyone has their own ideas and opinions,to discount them would be folly.
Chris Stedman’s contribution puts a very different light on this. Thank you
IF what he’s saying IS the truth, and I am not saying I believe it for a minute, the question surley is- How on Earth can they fail to convey such a positive message, don’t these people have some expertise in communication? The mind boggles that these people are “in charge” *cough!
This document: http://www.publicaccess.manchester.gov.uk/associateddocs/selecteddoc.aspx?096943-lts-0001.pdf, tells me a different story. Especially the first few paragraphs, that suggests, that unlike what they claimed in their Manchester Tree Plan, the council really has not got a clue.
It’s not about view points, it’s about facts, even this blog is quite hazy about the full facts. Plus, the guy who mentions being a garden designer, is he the actual designer for this project ?
Thanks for the additional info Patrick Sudlow, it does seem that MCC haven’t done a very good job of mapping the park. I am trying to keep up but there’s a lot to digest. It’s worth doing though because amidst all this are the facts that seem so elusive.
Radiomeltdown, Chris Stedman is not working as a garden designer on this park as far as I can tell, he merely states that AS a garden designer he’s taken considerable interest in the proposals especially the planting. He does not state what his role is. I’d like to see a “roundtable” type meeting, so we can all look at ALL the info that’s pouring into the public domain all of a sudden and take it from there.
i’m all for new planting but the park is huge, why can’t they plant new things alongside the existing trees? surely we need trees per se, especially if they are already mature and giving the park its atmosphere. if additional ones improve the mix, then great!
Would be good to hear what some tree surgeons or Manchester Tree Station say about it.
Certainly, as an ecologist you’re taught that fallen and decaying trees are one of the biggest sources of ecological biodiversity in a forest ecosystem – it’s the amount of edges between different habitats that is important.
There is a symbolism about trees that means we often make the mistake of valuing trees per se rather than diversity – a good recent example is the MMU Hulme development in which large scale ecological destruction has been legitimised by the argument that a few trees will be preserved, silencing a number of campaigners.
I don’t know enough about the Alex Park proposals, hence the need for some expert opinion.
Does anyone have a link to the actual council plans? I can’t find anything online, clearly Chris Sedman has seen it though…
Hi Jonathan, here is a link to the planning application: http://pa.manchester.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=LPAGVZBC6K000 Just like the Birley Fields application they have separated documents, to make finding information odious. The aborculturalist’s report does not recommend the felling of any where to 260 trees, I do not know how the council came up with that figure. Did not the council sign up to the ‘Save the Bee’ campaign. Large trees provide a large food source for honey bees, which requires little work on the honey bee to collect. It can takes over ten years before trees starts becoming productive.
Information I received from the Council:
Thank you for your email, now that the enabling works have begun, there are
inevitably questions being asked, in particular about the tree felling and
planting schemes, and about the consultation itself, I hope the following
information answers your questions.
How much consultation has taken place?
The table below summarises the consultation that has taken place in the
development of the plans.
Date | Consultation | Number
2004-5 | Face to face off-site interviews | 210
2008 | On-line parks satisfaction survey (Number of | 213
| participants within area of Alexandra Park) |
2009 | 143 off-site interviews | 143
Early 2010 | 4 schools | 4
July 2010 | Spaceshaper Day | c.35
Oct 2010 | Consultation on use of buildings | 20
Nov 2010 | Interpretation workshop | 9
Jan 2011 – | People’s Panel | 282
Present | |
March 5th 2011 | Consultation event | c.100
Easter Sunday | Stall, Friend’s Easter Egg Hunt | 25
2011 | |
March –April | Parents of toddlers | 35
2011 | |
April 2011 | Fishermen | 4
April-May 2011 | On-site user survey | 408
April-May 2011 | 8 schools | 8
May 2011 | 5 pilot school workshops – teacher | 5
| evaluations |
June 2011 | Development Officer attended live show, PEACE | 15
| FM |
June 2011 | Stall, Whalley Range Celebration event | c.80
June 2011 | Youth On Solid Ground | 11
May – June 2011 | Consultation with catering staff, community | 7
| cafes |
June – July 2011 | Meetings with Whalley Range 4 Wildlife, | 6
| Biodiversity Manager MCC |
July – August | Young people consultation | 118
2011 | |
On-going | Friends of Alexandra Park c.20 | c.25
On-going | Alexandra Park Sports Alliance | c.10
| TOTAL | 1773
Plus consultees on the formal planning consultation document for Alexandra
NB. The figure of 1773 shows the approximate instances of consultation.
Some people may have taken part in more than one element.
The plans for Alexandra Park are extremely exciting and the Council are
confident that through this consultation they have developed a plan with
the local community that will ultimately allow more people to use and enjoy
How many trees are being removed?
Overall, 90% of the tree stock in the park will be retained. Alexandra
Park covers an area of 60 acres; it has a stock of 1590 individual trees
and 12 groups of mixed broadleaved trees within the boundary walls meaning
the park is oversubscribed with trees. Whilst some have been planted many
are self sown and have developed within shrubberies which are dense,
creating areas of the park which people have expressed concerns over
As part of the restoration 258 trees will be removed; 53 of these have been
identified in the tree survey as needing to be removed for arboricultural
reasons including being poor quality specimens; 58 trees will be removed to
address issues of personal safety. Other trees will make way for new park
facilities as part of the restoration
92 trees will be planted in the park including varieties already present
such as Lime, London Plane, Poplar, Hornbeam and Cherry and adding new
species such as Whitebeam, Rowan, Apple, Plum, Fig and Pear trees bringing
greater diversity to the tree species in the park. Also being planted is
7000m2 of a variety of plants and shrubs creating an area rich in flowering
plants and berries essential to improving the biodiversity in the park and
a home for wildlife.
The raised terrace comprises mainly sycamore and maple trees that were
planted in the 1970’s.These particular non-native trees are considered to
be highly invasive and have limited conservation value according to the
Greater Manchester Ecology Unit. The reason for felling the trees in this
location is to restore the terrace as an open raised area with wide
footpaths, colourful planting displays and views across the rest of the
park. The location and dense canopies of the existing trees does not enable
the introduction of footpaths or planting.
Replanting in the park now will help to secure the future of the park,
providing variety in the age of the plants.
How will the new park be maintained?
A ten year maintenance plan is in place, this includes the recruitment of a
Head gardener and apprentices to ensure the park is maintained to a high
standard. In addition, as part of the HLF grant criteria we must gain a
Green Flag award which measures the quality of the park and retain this for
a total of 7 years.
Have we got an environmental impact assessment / bat survey?
An environmental impact assessment was not required for this scheme by the
planners. However, a number of ecology surveys were undertaken including:
Invasive Species Survey
Internal Inspection of Buildings – Bat Roost Potential Survey
Trees – Bat Roost Potential Survey
Bat Activity Survey
Bat roost potential was the only significant finding and detailed surveys
were undertaken to establish any roosts. A specialist will be present
during felling of five key trees and during the works to the pavilion,
community centre, the rest and the lodge when external features are
stripped e.g. soffits. We are also currently working with the Greater
Manchester Ecology Unit in the development of a Biodiversity Action Plan,
which will be in place before the main contracts works begin in early 2013.
Information on the restoration is available through the planning portal:
April 2011 – Fishermen: 4
Is someone taking the piss?
I was surprised too, then went for a walk at 5 in the morning ages ago only to find about 10 people out fishing at dawn by the lake & they told me the fishing there wasn’t bad!
Not sure about now but there was a thriving anglers club when we formed the Friends Group years ago & they paid for quite a few improvements round the lake when it was really neglected.
No one can accuse them of not trying to be thorough with their consultations…
Of course Manchester City Council is extracting the urine. What is happening, is not restoring the Park to its’ former glory. They have allowed the existing buildings to fall into disrepair, so will demolish them to built totally new and out-of-place buildings. They are putting in football pitches and tennis courts that never existed. Removing trees that could possibly of been planted by the Victorians, those camped there should try and ring-date the trees already felled. It is really the only way to accurately date a tree. As for their list of consultations, what exactly were these consultation on? Especially going back to 2004/5, they recently had a consultation on changing the name of Alexandria Park, are they including this consultation, inappropriately? As for being no requirement for an Environmental Impact Statement being required, is total nonsense and utterly deploring, as this is having an extremely negative environmental impact on the local area. What is needed, is someone with legal expertise in planning, maybe a letter to the Planning Ombudsman, stating the council is guilty of maladministration by:
giving incorrect information or misleading advice; and
failing to take account of information relevant to a planning decision (no environmental impact statement).
A-ha! I think I was imagining deep sea trawler men in waterproofs etc!
Don’t we all haha!
When we started looking into it the sheer range of people who use or want to use the park for all sorts of reasons is amazing. It’s original mixed use design was pretty remarkable for its time.
From text above: “Some people may have taken part in more than one element” eh?? How many 200 or 300 or 400. Do you use the same accounting for the number of trees you intend to cut down? Must admit I’m always a bit suspicious of round numbers, you might have made a better attempt at disguising the responses. Still at least there’s good news with the hundreds that are going to get booted out of Manchester City Council soon (no support from me now sorry) and they will have time to walk around Alexandra Park and admire the flowerbeds and admire the sawdust swept pathways 🙂
Bumped into councillor Nigel Murphy (Labour, Environment & Hulme), he told me the trees had to go because it was unsafe at night??? And yet, when I passed on residents concerns about the lack of lighting on Barrack Park, Hulme. I was fobbed off with the usual answer, there is no money.
There is a link to the proposed development here http://savealexandraparkstrees.wordpress.com/.
I think it should be noted the campaign was started after local residents went to the consultation event held last week. They saw the plans and asked questions of the people who are supposed to know about development, the campaign is the result.
My experience of Council consultations has not usually produced confidence. If there is an additional one for Alex Park, perhaps Chris should attend.
Hello, I wrote the above as an email independent assessment for the friends group (of which I’m a member) who were suddenly alarmed at the campaign citing massive tree loss after years of consultations of which they were a part and rated increasing biodiversity as a high priority. I was asked if I’d mind the email being printed here. That campaign started about 2 weeks before, not as a result of the meeting. Once started it seems to have taken on a life of its own without reference to the associated plans which shows what is to be planted to replace and improve on what’s lost. I agree that the City have been very slow to respond to what on the surface sounds like a horrific story about tree loss, when in fact the vast majority of the trees are untouched. I’m hoping they’ll up their game shortly because it’s badly needed! If the campaign was the whole story, I’d be signing the petition!
I’m happy to help provide links to plans & the friends group but work beckons….
Here are the actual plans on the council website: http://www.manchester.gov.uk/downloads/download/4620/alexandra_park_regeneration_project_downloads
I too signed the petition – must check my facts before signing these! Headline: the big avenue along ALex Rd and most of the trees elsewhere stay the same, while more trees including fruit trees will be planted in various places, for example the avenue along Claremont Rd. I remain a bit unclear – it does look like there is a serious attempt to restore the park while maintaining a lot of biodiversity and also adding things like fruit trees. But there are unanswered questions. And there is a qualitative judement to be made about the gain in amenity which also means potentially making the park more welcoming for more people – educational and cultural capital gains there.
Maybe we should be pressing for carbon calculations to be presented when Manchester’s green and blue spaces are proposed for changes. These would be estimates given the large number of variables, but it should be able to estimate the following:-
Current biomass, immediate reduction in biomass, immediate loss of sequestration (and other ecosystem ‘services’).
Projected biomass a) business as usual (with current plantings) b) with proposed plantings – using say 5 year milestones over the next 25 years.
From all this the net gain or loss could be calculated, both on an immediate basis but also on a projected basis.
Carbon release / sequestration is only one element (and soil gain/loss, plus fuel inputs should really be included too) but it is probably the most important one and might be a useful proxy for other variables.
Also the carbon footprint of allowing buildings to fall into decay, then demolishing them and replacing them with new build. It is not a sustainable way to do things or very ‘Green’.
Thanks for posting the links Mark, I’m glad you’ve realised there is more to this than the campaign makes out. Your readers may also like to see the Friends of Alex Park FB page http://www.facebook.com/AlexParkMcr . People can make up their own minds based on the facts. To me it’s a simple choice: stick with what we’ve got which isn’t that impressive and is poor for biodiversity or replace the bits of the park in question with something that’s far superior and invest in the future.
In reaching a decision these points have to be borne in mind. Funding is only available for heritage restoration and sports (not increasing biodiversity). It is conditional on restoring the park to its original mixed use design. The reason increasing biodiversity (ibd) features strongly is that in all the consultations it was rated as a high priority by all those attending & has therefore been integrated (quite well) into the restoration. Unfortunately it comes as a package, if we depart from bits of it the funding disappears and we lose the lot – including the idb. It’s not perfect by any means but is what was achievable in the real world and is pretty good for the future in my view. In my ideal world ibd would have a higher standing than sports or restoration but it doesn’t sadly.
Thanks Mr Sedman for helping to nurture our nature in Whalley Range. Especially your vociferous campaign to stop the pair of semi-detatched houses on Range Road being built, where the beautiful wild area was next to the sub station, full of trees 10-11 some covered in ivy with a fox den at the back.
Only joking there was no campaign was there, as it was the empty plot that you lived next door to and you knew houses being built there WOULD INCREASE THE VALUE OF YOUR PROPERTY. Thanks for helping to nurture our nature in Whalley Range.
Perhaps if you are going to make claims like this, you might show the courtesy of giving your name?
This kind of stuff isn’t relevant to the debate anyway, cheap shot…
What I feel is a cheap shot, is to claim that what happened the other Saturday was a consultation. It was nothing of the sort, it like most Manchester City Consultations, are marketing exercises. To have gotten funding from the heritage lottery fund, they had to have had their plans already in place. How long ago was that? So these plans were put forward, with no consultation with the local residents of Moss Side and Whalley Range. And now, they are trying to justify there actions, by saying if they do not do what they plan to do, they will not receive any funding. They should of maintained the Parks properly in the first place, instead of spending money of ‘Ego’ projects.
Sadly not only is it irrelevant to the debate but also untrue.
I was asked via our Residents’ Group to contact the owners of the land to ask them do something to secure it. It was being used for fly tipping and people were injecting heroin behind the substation. The developers decided instead to build on the whole site & I personally led the campaign to get them to leave half the plot wild to compensate for the trees that were lost and 30 other Residents signed a petition to support me. We now have 2 much needed houses for rent for large families and a dense area full of brambles, nettles, buddleia, holly and 3 newly planted trees which I lightly maintain twice a year for free. It’s full of birds, butterflies and foxes live there too. The kids in the houses love it and often give me a hand looking after it. We’re also in the process of creating a small community park further along the road which was previously a tipping site to help get younger kids interested in nature. I’ve donated my time for free of course.
I’m not aware of it making any change to our house price but since I’m committed to the area and plan to stay it’s irrelevant anyway.
Blimey it doesn’t do to disagree with some people does it? Gutter level character assassination or what?
The park plans appear to help our park in some ways but if you study them closely you will see that the 260 tree removal and the 1.6 hectares of ground cover (that’s 16,000 sq. metres) all in one go is going to have such a large negative impact on our park. This ground cover are all species deliberately planted by knowledgable park staff over a number of years and need to be viewed in such light and treasured as it is by our wildlife.
An area of the park is marshy so shouldn’t we be planting marsh species to co-exist with nature instead of fighting it, which is costly.
The Sycamore is currently no longer regarded as a weed tree species by arboriculture experts in the UK because of it’s resistance to fungal infection. The current plans don’t take into account Ash Dieback, Horse Chestnut Blight , Red Band Needle Blight in Scott’s Pine, Corsican Pine and Lodge Pole Pine, Phytophthora disease in Alder, Oak tree disease. A sensible approach to nurturing our park into the next 100 years must involve an audit of tree species to identify all the known possible fungal, parasitic etc, infections and diseases and their likelihood to naturally decimate our parks tree species. Replacement planting with resistive species, whilst we have the budget would be sensible.
Hi all, As one of the founding contributors toward the http://savealexandraparkstrees.wordpress.com/ group/movement I can confidently say we started the movement on Wednesday 28th November. The Councils own ecology unit wasn’t happy with the proposals either.
Hi all, as one of the original members of the http://savealexandraparkstrees.wordpress.com/ movement I can confidently say it all started on Wed 28th November and Ian Brewer and I created the petition a few days later. We knew the petition needed to be created urgently (I admit the wording on it could have been more informative) and everything we have learnt since just confirms that we do need to take action.
I sincerely apologise to Mr Sedman, as your petition was online and at that time, I wasn’t, and I missed it.
I’m posting this information and a link to a video on our blog as I feel this thread is missing some important information. We’ve raised objections (last summer) to MCC and FOAP, but these haven’t affected their plans.
From Save Alexandra Parks Trees blog:
Despite the 1300 objections gathered, the Manchester City Council still plans to cut down the majority of trees in this wet mossland area and reduce it to a small token clump of trees recreating a formal English park of 100 years or so ago.
We go beyond this time with Nadine Andrews of the Whalley Range 4 Wildlife group,who tells the natural history story of the area as she knows it.
I would like to endorse the comment from Jonathan Atkinson above:
“There is a symbolism about trees that means we often make the mistake of valuing trees per se rather than diversity – a good recent example is the MMU Hulme development in which large scale ecological destruction has been legitimised by the argument that a few trees will be preserved, silencing a number of campaigners.”
Focussing on trees alone is incredibly ‘one-dimensional’.
Note that Transport for Greater Manchester’s main strategy for ‘compensating’ for all the biodiversity that they have destroyed, as a result of the recent Metrolink works, is to plant a few trees. Planting trees DOES VERY LITTLE, if anything, to compensate for the loss of good wildlife habitat – in fact, it may damage any scraps that are left. In addition a few planted saplings DO NOT compensate for the loss of mature trees.
(COPY OF WHAT I WROTE IN RESPONSE TO RELATED E-MAILS I RECEIVED):
Hi, I’ve read all of e-mails the below (along with the other related e-mails in my inbox) with keen interest and have still decided to go ahead and sign the petition;
In response to some of the points below: I am not from America; nor am I new to the area. What I am, is concerned that any biodiversity initiatives do not come at the expense of precious already existing trees. (No matter how much money’s on offer… – In my view, these days, sizeable sums of money on offer quite often dictate all sorts of agendas…)
As has been aptly pointed out below, these trees have already well-proven their merits by the very fact that they have withstood all that has been described below. Surely, if anything, this should teach us something of their worth?
That is not to say that I’m not appreciative of the need for bio-diversity – As a long-term active member of Birchfields Park Forest Garden, I am greatly aware of its need (although it should be noted that I can’t speak on behalf of the rest of our Forest Garden, nor the rest of the Friends of Birchfields Park) – But to my mind, the trees’ long-term existence in itself proves them a vital component of the local existing wildlife’s make-up. On top of their aesthetic qualities and historical merits, they additionally carry their own practical benefits, create their own wildlife habitat, and I wonder how fruit trees and berry bushes would measure up to their huge oxygen-generating capacities in this polluted city? – Like I said, these are just my personal opinions but I’m going to sign the petition now.
Best regards, Yasmin Quayyum,.
I so hope the trees stay. Does anybody know the latest? When I first heard my reaction was panic and distress and I rang the first number I could see of who could be contactable. I had about an hour conversation with a park employee. It was great of him to talk with me for so long and we discussed many aspects. But I did not like was him saying ‘Look it’s going to happen anyway’ sadly reflecting the increasing lack of a voice that we all have on our local environment. He also said ‘But don’t you think it’s great that they’re spending all this money’ reflecting the belief that if currency figures are being thrown at something then it’s good. ‘No!’ I said ‘Money is just figures and not really real – those trees are.’ And that to me is the point – whatever is being proposed and however we might project the biodiversity benefits – those trees are here and now bio-diverse products of decades – so why destroy them, especially as already mentioned, in a climate where ALL tree species have new testing conditions to contend with. The employee also mentioned that ‘all sorts’ was taking place in the overgrown area – I said the ‘all sorts’ are the symptoms of economic and social shortcomings and you can’t just ‘clear them away’. After hanging up the phone I spoke to my teenage son. He and his friends are not biologists or campaigners or eco anything but when trees disappear they say “When trees go you think ‘where’ve they gone?’ – doesn’t look right without them. We liked them.’
If you look at the aborculturalist report, it is critical of Manchester original tree survey and a large number of the trees chosen by the Council for felling are over 60 years old and in good condition. So why are they being felled? The council is accessing lottery money to build new none heritage buildings, to replace the heritage buildings they have allowed to fall into disrepair over the last 30 years. The only way to get this council to listen to local residents, is to vote Labour out of office. That means the nearly 80% who do not vote, voting for an alternative, which now will not be till 2014.
The Wild cherry trees are gone,along with the Hawthorn ,which was covered with berries so the blackbirds could feed through Winter.Now cutting down perfectly good mature trees,to make way for tennis courts,that will only be used for a couple of months of the year,(thats if weather permits). Council and alike,talk of increased biodiversity,while destroying a biodiversity that took decades to muture..
After all the council cuts,where at one time there was over 20 employed maintaining the park,now only 2 part time.Who is going to maintain this big new park,with cafe,paying tennis courts.
Yes you have got it,they will be asking me and you,who did not want this in the first place.
So much for the voice of the people.
Your statement that the sycamore “is the opposite and enemy of biodiversity” is totally in conflict with the views of the Woodland Trust and every professional arboriculturalist I have ever met. Please do some research into the sycamore and base your opinion about it on empirical evidence rather than propagating this false notion that sycamore is an ‘evil’ tree and by destroying it you are saving the planet.
Which Trees are the most valuable for Wildlife
Woodland Trust Sycamore Fact Sheet
Click to access sycamore-paper-ext-version.pdf
“MONOCULTURE…..is the opposite and enemy of biodiversity” is what I wrote Simon. I don’t believe any of the things you’re attributing to me.
Acers generally, including the sycamore, can play a useful role in a biodiverse scheme and I plant them as a matter of routine. The one thing to watch with the sycamore specifically is that it can be invasive; throttling other useful and less vigorous trees and shrubs, otherwise it’s fine.
I can’t imagine describing any tree, shrub or plant as ‘evil’.
“The one thing to watch with the sycamore specifically is that it can be invasive; throttling other useful and less vigorous trees and shrubs, otherwise it’s fine.”
Species are not themselves ‘invasive’, individual populations of species can be invasive in particular circumstances, but this is a biogeographical rather than a taxonomic phenomenon. Many plant species can grow in number to dominate their competition given favourable growing conditions, but this is hardly a problem ‘specific’ to sycamore.
If you cut a clearing in a woodland and disturb the ground during the course of the work, in three years time that clearing might well be full of ash or sycamore saplings. It is the act of cutting down the mature trees and altering light levels in the woodland that led to the saplings emerging, not the fact ash or sycamore are more ‘invasive’ than other tree species. The seeds from which those ash and sycamore saplings grew may have laid dormant in the soil for many years, they haven’t just ‘invaded’ the site, but are responding naturally to changes in their environment like all living things have to do in order to survive and reproduce.
Species like ash and sycamore are early colonisers, they don’t “throttle other useful and less vigorous trees and shrubs,” but ecologically alter their surrounding environment so it can support a greater diversity of species. In the example of a sycamore or ash sapling thicket, birds like jays may enter burying acorns, blackbirds enter depositing the seeds of hawthorn, holly, elder and rowan in their droppings. Over a period of years subtle changes in light levels, micro-climate, soil depth, nutrient availability, pests species and other factors might well make the area less favourable to the early colonisers and favour tree species with different growth strategies like oak, scientists call this process ecological succession.
If you are managing a woodland that is 85% oak and 15% sycamore you might decide that eradicating the sycamore by selectively felling them would result in a pure oak woodland with greater biodiversity. However in reality this management strategy would have the opposite effect, increasing site disturbance and canopy gaps would actually favour sycamore regeneration in the future. So because of poor woodland management practices over many years, we now have this widely held belief that sycamore is an invasive weed species and is less valuable than other types of trees. Everyday this discredited belief is trotted out as an excuse to destroy hundreds of perfectly healthy mature trees.
The UKs leading woodland charity, the Woodland Trust describe the belief that sycamore trees are “highly invasive and have limited conservation value” as being “ill-conceived” and “based on little empirical evidence” but this is one of Manchester Council’s main rationales behind the destruction of the sycamores in Alexandra Park.
You wrote “grubby sycamore and grass – almost monoculture; This is the opposite and enemy of biodiversity.” In actuality sycamore trees look dirty because their bark is an important host to epiphytic lichens and bryophytes (evidence of the biodiversity you say isn’t there!!).
You also stated “the one thing to watch with the sycamore specifically is that it can be invasive; throttling other useful and less vigorous trees and shrubs”
Yet the Royal Forestry Society say about the sycamore “there is no evidence supporting invasiveness”. The Woodland Trust say “the contention that sycamore is invasive is not supported by evidence. Sycamore appears less invasive than has historically been stated.”
Click to access sycamore-paper-ext-version.pdf
If you read the excellent articles in full and carefully Simon, both specifically state they are referring to undisturbed forest – which is entirely reasonable coming from the Woodland Trust or the Royal Forestry Society.
‘Sycamore is ‘invasive’, or an early coloniser, to disturbed sites, however’ & ‘the tree is only able to spread on sites where the ground has been disturbed’.
These quotes are taken directly from the same documents you mention and confirm what I’ve written.
I hate to point out the obvious but it’s an inner city park; it certainly isn’t undisturbed forest.
Managed spaces like an inner city park or a garden aren’t the same as an undisturbed forest. Many of the natural checks and balances simply don’t apply because humans have already interfered with them and people have very different expectations of heavily used inner city green spaces as opposed to undisturbed forest.
Some people might prefer that the park was a forest but that is a different debate. But if the Victorians hadn’t had the foresight and good will to create a managed space called Alexandra Park it would have been covered in factories or housing by now, being so close to the city centre.
On the plus side most of the magnificent trees (including sycamore specimens) that are here now wouldn’t have arrived or still be here without human intervention and after care.
Sorry Simon, I meant to say thanks for the references you quoted. You learn something every day; I’d not realised horse chestnut was so low on the valuable to wildlife list.
Chris – I have no expertise but the way I see it the trees are here and now. We can’t buy time and space and that’s what is contained within them and what any proposed biodiversity cannot have. Given the urgency in every respect of our current situation – climate change accelerating, biodiversity loss rates rising rapidly, campaigns to save everything from birds and bees to barrier reefs – everything that time and space have given us is of value whereas what is proposed is just potential. Let’s experiment with ‘potential’ in truly sterile non green zones. The main objection to this is usually that ‘economics’ won’t let us. In that case we must think outside of that paradigm and not let it dictate the loss of all that is alive and beautiful.
What is worrying me having seen the state of the park today is the speed and lack of care which is happening as the trees are coming down. Trees which are felled are falling into trees which are not earmarked for felling, causing damage. There are no site notices regarding protecting treeroots from heavy machinery. The whole thing stinks of a rush job. In the devasation which used to be the sycamore avenue on the hulme side I saw a wren sheltering under a fallen tree, there seems to be no consideration for wildlife. Surely a staggered approach, over time to take down those trees which needed to be felled, pollarding others and planting fruiting bushes would have allowed time for wildlife to re-establish. My fear is that we will be left with half a plan. The trees will come down and once a large open field has essentially been created with a few trees around the main bits, there will be no money or whatever excuse for further work and there we will be with a low maintenance destroyed space.
It’s heartbreaking. :(( I don’t often get cross – but I’m so cross at the ignorance and discompassion that has let this happen.
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Hang on a minute, so it’s taken them 9 whole years to get AT THE MOST 1773 consulted opinions and the Save Alex Park Campaign has reached over 3000 in a few weeks. Well that’s quite telling maybe MCC would like to engage us as their consultants in future?
I moved into the area 17 months ago, sent an email to the Friends group stating I was interested in finding out about them, no reply. We walk our dog in Alex Park frequently (and did so long before I moved into the area) We were never approached for our opinions by anyone.
During Moss Side Carnival last summer I chatted at length with a woman from Moss Care Housing about my thoughts about the park (no mention was made that this was in any way a consultation), I again sat for a long time with a student doing a questionnaire at the same event, at no point was the word consultation mentioned.
Early in Dec 2012, I got wind of the true intentions of MCC and have been involved ever since.