Eighteen months ago, I visited 16 acre wood which is on the HS2 line. I wrote an account of what was happening to this ancient woodland. On a bright Sunday in August 2022, I decided that it was time to give an update on how HS2 is progressing in this area and document their approach to this local beauty spot. Initially my walk over the fields from Berkswell was idyllic and the sun broke through the clouds as I made my way along the boardwalk out of the village. Black clouds on my chosen path began to form as notices from HS2 were being posted to indicate changes in the public footpath. I walked over the fields, up the hills and then made my way through the short woodland link to the next part of the footpath. Immediately I came out of the wood, there were mounds of recently turned earth.
As I move onwards I came across the “new pond” created by HS2. It looked like Fort Knox with a notice saying “Ecology Exclusion Area” and “mitigation zone – no entry”. I am unsure what these signs are meant to convey but I guess they make the point that some form of protection is taking place. A mitigation zone is where they are attempting to protect a habitat. However, it looks like Fort Knox with all the Keep Out signs and chains stretching around it.
I see that HS2 is in full swing and the landscape is being scarred by the large earth moving machines. My pictures show on one side, the construction of HS2 which is ongoing and on the other, the state of the 16 acre wood. The words and signs are not welcoming. Trees appear to have been pushed over and the tree balls of soil and roots are upended in the air. There are signs that dictate where you can and can not go. The path is a designated a “pedestrian route” which is a strange term for a public footpath.
The pictures show the state of the area. If only a bit more care and attention was given to what is being done to the environment then I may be reassured by the progress of HS2. As the pictures show, there is a lack of respect for the surrounding environment. There are signs showing Rhododendron herbicide is being used and I assume this is to allow the woodland to regenerate without the interference of invasive plants.
Finally, I did stop and take some time sitting by the old pond. The area is suffering from a lack of water due to the current drought and there are several trees that have fallen into the water. In the pond, there were dragon flies and damselflies moving around. Nature is on the brink around here and is still trying to survive.
Someone said to me, don’t worry about all this HS2 work as the countryside will grow back and regenerate. I do wonder if this is true and whether we have damaged the landscape irreversibly.
Please read by companion piece to this update report on 16 Acre Wood. The report written 18 months earlier shows the changes that have occurred.
There will be two enormous viaducts in this area and this article shows what they will look like. I will be returning to document ongoing changes in this area over the subsequent years.