As the Barrow Voice goes to print a controversial plan to fell trees has yet to be resolved.
Residents of Breachfield Road noticed one day five trees, opposite their houses, marked with crosses. The red crosses identified trees to be felled. Residents are concerned that this may affect wildlife who live and forage among the bark, branches and leaf litter. Trees also help absorb rainwater and play their part in preventing flooding (something already experienced by some residents of Breachfield).
Planning permission was originally given in 2013 for the existing footbridge, connecting Breachfield to Poppyfields, to be replaced with something wider and stronger allowing cyclists; wheelchairs or mobility scooter users; and families with pushchairs to access a network of footpaths. However, residents argue that this was prior to the 2018 United Nations report on climate change, when trees were identified as being important key players. “They’re only five trees” one resident told me, “but we have to start somewhere and if every village across the world cut down five trees – well, think what that would mean. We need to change our thinking.”
Some of the children living on Breachfield Road felt so strongly that they made ‘Save our Trees’ signs. One of them told me that she is concerned because “it’s bad for the birds, their homes might get ruined”. Birds and other wildlife may well be beginning their nesting in these trees exactly at the time that they are felled.
Charnwood Borough Council has confirmed that this work is an agreed part of the development of Poppyfields and that they are not allowed to act against development that has already received consent. Jelson, the developer, has confirmed to the council that the two mature trees and two smaller trees are to be removed; one will have lower branches removed. A landscape and wildlife impact will have been evaluated site-wide at the time of the planning application (in 2013). This means that there can often be a loss in one part of the site and a gain in another.
A representative from Jelson told me that the result will be a safer upgraded crossing providing a sustainable public route. It will also provide a safe route to the new play area being developed in Poppyfields. He promised that suitable replacement trees will be planted. At this stage, he was unable to say whether the trees would be replaced by the same mix of species as are there now. I asked why the trees need to be cut down and he explained that currently the access from Poppyfields to the bridge is too steep and the ground needs to be levelled. Some trees need to go in order to allow the access of large machinery for the bridge works. We ask that residents and Jelson, together with the local authority, may be able to come together to see if there is an alternative way that this work could happen without losing any trees.
These trees like can provide a habitat which could support over 300 insect species and are: Hawthorn, Ash (endangered across Europe because of ash dieback) and a Norway Maple.
Information from the Woodland Trust suggests the wildlife supported in this important mix of trees could include a range of aphids and their predators, which in turn are food for birds. Caterpillars of almost 20 different moth species feed on the leaves; flowers provide a good source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects and seeds are eaten by birds including being an important source for migrating birds and small mammals. Foliage makes fantastic nesting shelter for many species of bird, bats and other animals. Airy canopies and leaf fall can provide conditions for wildflowers which in turn support a range of insects such as the rare and threatened brown fritillary butterfly.
These trees form a mix of habitat for wildlife:
- Habitat for over 300 insects.
- Foodplant for caterpillars of moths: hawthorn, orchard ermine, pear leaf blister, rhomboid tortrix, light emerald, lackey, vapourer, fruitlet-mining tortrix, small eggar and lappet moths.
- Flowers are eaten by dormice and provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects.
- The haws are rich in antioxidants and are eaten by migrating birds, such as redwings, fieldfares and thrushes, as well as small mammals
- Dense, thorny foliage makes fantastic nesting shelter for many species of bird.
- Nectar, pollen and berries are an essential food source for insects and birds during autumn and winter when little else is about.
- Provides shelter for insects, birds, bats and other small mammals
- Important for many insects before they go into hibernation.
This healthy ash seems to be one of the few in Europe not yet devastated by Ash Dieback which is devastating the ash tree population and so healthy trees need to be preserved.
- The airy canopy and early leaf fall allow sunlight to reach the ground, providing optimum conditions for wildflowers such as dog violet, wild garlic and dog’s mercury. In turn, these support a range of insects such as the rare and threatened high brown fritillary butterfly.
- Seeds are eaten by bullfinches and woodpeckers, owls, redstarts.
- Nuthatches use the trees for nesting.
- Provide deadwood for insects like the lesser stag beetle.
- Ash bark is often covered with lichens and mosses.
- Leaves are an important food for the caterpillars of many species of moth: the coronet, brick, centre-barred sallow and privet hawk-moth.
- Leaves are an important food source for moth caterpillars.
- Flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees and other insects.
- Seeds are important to birds and small mammals.