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A walk in the park (in progress)

A park of many corners
Highbury Park features somewhat disproportionatley in the 'Rea Valley Woodland Consultation' Blog, two reasons, one it's close to home and work and two it's interesting, that might be three, but nevertheless it's a fascinating area with lots going on almost everyday, and there are enough landscape features combined with a geographical declivity to make it seem much larger than it is; a park of many 'corners', thanks to Milner's 19th century landscape design and this, together with a mixed arrangement of Park's management additions, changes, abandonment, cut backs and nature improvement, thanks to volunteers, Friends, Rangers and the B&BCWT NIA funding, makes it an intriguing subject.

Author and journalist Barbara Copperthwaite also has much to say about the area in her blog - Great photos accompanying.

Every now and again, I dawdle the time away, sauntering nonchalantly with no aim, purpose or devise- and as I gradually become entranced by vista, plant or animal I realise the essence of the moment.

The concept of 'rus in urbe' - a rural surround in an urban setting, allows the mind to envisage country lane, stream and venerable oak, meadow and hedgerow, woodland and copse, blending to provide a powerful escape from the destructive mayhem all around.
Chamberlain's, unrecogniseable, 'Tea Garden' - now a bed of reed mace.

Much of the site is reverting wildly to a naturalness long lost, with corners, edges and borders 
displaying flowers and grasses, previously chopped unceremoniously. Shorn for no reason other than 'tidy'. 

Areas of scrub and 'natural' woodland will eventually take hold in areas of the park designated by the horticultural mindset as 'rank grass'; what an awful way to describe 'succession', a transition from grassland to woodland aided by Jays and other tree seed dispersers, wind and mammal.

Dead and decaying trees are fascinating and Highbury boasts a good collection. Many of us now recognise the value of dead wood as an arbiter between life and death; and whilst the former 'tree' may no longer thrive in its own right, other life forms are quick to move in. Even before the tree pegs it, for it is a slow process, fungal spores investigate its potential. 

The dead tree trail keeps me captivated during a purposeless park walkabout, so too a colony of bees, a Blue Tit and Tree Creeper seamingly sharing the same entrance hole but not the exit. A flourish of fungus, not the original coloniser but a secondary or tertiary colonist; and then the shape of the tree, the peeling bark, the peppershot, pock-marked ash trunk, sculpted by woodpecker, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and tit and eventually Ringed Neck Parakeet poking a beak in.

The views at Highbury are never tiresome, and around every corner a new joy - be it a long view or short, and I appreciate the protestations to protect the long views whilst keeping the contentious hedgerows at bay.
long views and short 
a gap in the hedge

Hedgerows have always been contentious!

How contentious was this in its day?
The 'crucible' wall at Highbury, an impressive structure today, but how was it received when first built?


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Highbury Park Friends January 2017 newsletter

Join Highbury Park Friends to get up to date information about this wonderful park - follow the link above for the latest newsletter.

There's so much going on already and this is set to increase as the Chamberlain Highbury Trust look to bring many new and exciting ideas to the Highbury estate and adjoining park land. Check out their website on the links below

Weekly and monthly activities incuding 'Woodland Wednesdays' with the Rangers and B&BCWT, supported by NIA (Nature Improvement Area) funding.

Woodland Play after school club, every Wednesday at the Orchard - Highbury Orchard Community Interest Company oversee this -

A visiting student from Virginia asks -

Q1 What do you think are the biggest benefits of teaching and using traditional woodland management techniques in city parks?
A1. The essence of a Ranger’s role is to engage the community at large with the aim of encouraging more people to use parks and green spaces. Therefore a range of themes, topics and activities are employed to meet the broad interests and diverse nature of the public, involving people of all ages, abilities, ethnicities etc. 
The ‘woodland’ theme seems to have universal appeal and is steeped in history, ecology, science, spirituality, mythology and culturally, much more.
So generally we can assume people want to learn something new, make something using natural resources and have an involvement in their local green space, so that a few basic skills, some knowledge and a morsel of understanding related to ecological principles allows people to feel good about themselves and enables them to share these good feelings, acquired skills and gained knowledge with…

Ecotones and Succession = TENSION

The term 'ecotone' cropped up this week as a Tree Officer colleague and I looked at Holders Woods in an exercise to describe the woodland structure, composition and current management.
The word ecotone was coined from a combination of eco(logy) plus -tone, from the Greek tonos or tension – in other words, a place where ecologies are in tension. (Wiki)

Ecotones are generally recognised for ecological richness and a good place to observe the 'tensions' and interactions between certain animals and plants.

A woodland edge for example is often regarded as the richest part of a woodland, especially if the edge is bordered by grassland meadow or water.

The Rea Valley in this regard is a wonderful mix of urban ecosystems and ecotones, and one of my favourite locations is the developing oak woodland at the edge of Holders Woods. Undoubtedly the result of acorn planting Jays, we find oaks ranging from year 1 to year 50, but with a majority of young trees around 10-20 years, sugge…