The cutting back of undergrowth and the burning of leaves ceased after about 1967 and dead wood, or fallen trees were no longer removed except in the vicinity of paths, so that they now provided habitats for many insect and fungus species. Limited plantings of native flowers, such as meadowsweet, wood violet, wild campion, comfrey, herb robert, ground ivy, wild garlic, pendulous sedge and male fern were made. It was a deliberate policy not to plant alien or exotic flowers. In the same way it was decided to remove areas of rhododendron, not a native English woodland species, and to replace them with native shrubs such as hawthorn, holly and elder and, in damper sites, willow and guelder rose. It was resolved that tarmac paths were to be replaced with gravel 'hoggin’ paths. The grey squirrels were subject to control, with about 100-150 were culled each autumn.

About 1969, under increasing pressure from local residents, attempts were made to increase the diversity of species and to help natural regeneration. Coniferous trees including Douglas fir, Western hemlock, Norway spruce, Corsican pine, Red oak, Turkey oak, Norway maple, and Swedish whitebeam were planted. Areas were fenced and underplanted with beech; other areas were replanted with oak, hornbeam, hazel, cherry and fenced to allow the trees to establish themselves. Apparently the object was to change the nature of parts of the wood from the ancient hornbeam/oak wood into an arboretum containing a great variety of trees, a contradiction of the earlier policy.

In 1977, The Muswell Hill and Fortis Green Association commissioned Mr P.F.Garthwaite, a consultant on Forestry, to report on the Wood.

He questioned the policy of planting a wide variety of species not found naturally in the ancient wood. Beech preferred a lighter soil with better drainage and mature beech trees shade out all other growth. There is no undergrowth in a beech wood. The planting of conifers was also doubtful. Scots pine and Western hemlock gave little bird shelter and suffered from atmospheric pollution in towns, while Scots pine did not grow well on clay.

The policy of fencing off areas of two or three acres for tree regeneration put a great strain on the rest of the wood. The public was confined to the unfenced areas causing the soil to be heavily trampled, compacting the soil and perhaps shortening the lives of the trees. Instead, much smaller areas should be fenced, irregularly spaced where the tree cover was broken, or a dead tree had been felled.

The report suggested the planting of container-grown oak trees, each three or four feet high at about 10 metre intervals, with intermediate planting of holly, hornbeam, wild cherry and rowan, on small parcels of laud. Each block would form its own little thicket and there would be plenty of room for the public to wander in.

The public did not want to walk at the edges of the wood bordering the Archway Road and built up areas: the denser these were the better. Groups of holly and hawthorn should be planted here, as these were more effective in creating a screen than conifers. On the roadside horsechestnuts could be added. Where it was safe, dead trees should be left to improve the habitat for wild life, and where it was not safe, the trees should be left on the ground to rot.

At the Joint Consultative Committee meeting in October 1977 Mr Garthwaite's report was considered and was dismissed, in the words of David Jones who represented the

Report of Highgate Wood Management Policy, by P.F.Garthwaite, May 1977

 

 

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