High Speed Rail: A Disaster For Woodlands And Wildlife

Plans for high speed railway lines to be built between London and Birmingham, as well as Liverpool and Manchester, are currently “on track”.

These rail lines would directly impact 21 of the British irreplaceable ancient woodlands. And, alongside those directly affected, at least 27 other woodland sites would be at risk of damage, as they lie within 200 metres of proposed routes.

Proposals to plant 2 million trees as a means of justifying the proposals (and pacifying any response) are ridiculous, as the unique habitats of ancient woodlands are impossible to be artificially recreated. Translocation, given the complexities and sensitivities of the relevant ecosystems, is equally unrealistic as reasonable options – the possibility of relocating displaced habitats is not supported by independent scientific research.

This type of development has proven to cause severe damage to tree roots, increase surface water run-off, cause soil erosion and compaction, and are a threat to the biodiversity of this island in some of the last remaining wild spaces.

Wild spaces in Britain are home for – badgers, beavers, deer, dormice, foxes, hedgehogs, lynxes, wood mice, pine martins, squirrels, stoats, weasels, wild boar, bats, blackbirds, bramblings, buzzards, chaffinches, chiffchaffs, goldcrests, goshawks, great spotted woodpeckers, hobbys, house martins, jays, kestrels, lesser spotted woodpeckers, little owls, long eared owls, nightingales, nuthatches, ospreys, red kites, siskins, sparrowhawks, spotted flycatchers, tawny owls, treecreepers, wood warblers, british pool frogs, common frogs, common toads, natterjack toads, great crested newts, palmate newts, smooth newts, adders, grass snakes, smooth snakes, common lizards, sand lizards, slow worms and more insects and bugs than I care to type out (full list available on Wildlife Trust’s website).

Do we really want to give up this


so we can get this?


Even if we forget the impact this will have on wildlife and the autonomy of the woodlands themselves and think of this purely in terms of the value they have for humans, we should consider these words by the philosopher Henry David Thoreau –

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”

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