Misgivings over St Albans woodland regeneration

A PRECIOUS area of woodland in the heart of St Albans is to undergo regeneration work this winter but residents have vowed to keep a close eye on proceedings.

Anxieties that The Wick, a green open space and nature reserve in Marshalswick, would be devastated by a proposed management plan had been voiced by residents and a local community group, Friends of the Wick.

A number of letters were sent to St Albans District Council after a Greenspace Action Plan (GAP) was sent to the Friends by the council and the Countryside Management Service (CMS), appearing to suggest that the main path through the 3.3 acre area of woodland would be widened up to 15 metres in some places.

The implication that this path, or “ride” as it is referred to in the GAP, would include an indiscriminate felling of trees, leaving an area that was originally intended to be kept in its “wild state” flattened by the work, were at the centre of everyone’s concerns.

But an initial consultation at the site was held last Friday with the Friends, council officers and a representative from CMS, Tony Bradford, which revealed a number of misunderstandings as a result of the GAP report.

Mr Bradford stressed that the path through the much-loved area, frequented by dog owners, walkers and school children as they made their way home, would remain as it was and promised that the felling of trees would only be done where it would enable the growth of more ash, hornbeam and hopefully, oak trees.

Tony said that it was not the intention of CMS to shape the land but instead to encourage biodiversity and create a legacy that would enable the wooded area to exist for future generations.

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The creation of “glades” would involve the felling of trees which are considered to be restricting the growth of native plant species, namely sycamore trees. And while residents were sceptical about how many trees this would involve and if work would be destructive to species not intended for removal, officers assured them that this would not be the case.

Tony added: “The path will remain as it is. It will be no wider than it already is. These plans are looking to the future.”

Pam Farley, a member of Friends of the Wick and Heartwood Woodland Trust volunteer, said she had been concerned after reading the report but the consultation had proved insightful.

She said: “We are very anxious that The Wick doesn’t become a garden or a park. After today, I’m happy that these ‘glades’ will help replenish the woodland and not decimate them as we had feared. Removing trees that are at the end of their life or preventing others from growing, that’s what I’ve been pushing for some time.”

Jon Green, parks and green spaces manager at the council, said: “We’re talking about minimal intervention to increase the biodiversity. We’re pleased people have listened to us as we’ve explained the intention of the work.”

Acknowledging that the initial GAP report given to the Friends was not clear, officers said they would make it clearer in a follow-up document.

The Wick was originally part of Marshalswick House and was given to the council in 1929 by Sir Arthur Copson Peake.