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Wednesday 3 February 2016

Standing Up For Nature!

The view from our office window is beautiful – a mature woodland including corsican pines, birch, oak, holly, bracken, rhododendron, broom, bramble etc. There is a deep and healthy dyke running along the length of it at the far side and open fields are beyond the wood. The wood is not owned by the hospital – I don't know who it belongs to, but the hospital does own approximately a couple of yards into this wood, next to our road that runs around the hospital – this includes the most mature pine trees on the outer edge.

There has always been a good selection of birds here. Resident/regular birds include: treecreepers, nuthatch, siskins, great spotted and green woodpeckers, robins, redpolls, jays, goldcrests, long-tailed tits, coal, great, blue, and even rarer marsh tits, blackbirds, song thrushes, mistle thrushes - the list goes on. Spring migration brings Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps, Goldcrests and Cuckoos etc. Also tawny owl and protected species: Adders and Grass Snakes hibernate and breed in here. Birds nest in here too, including a Great Spotted Woodpecker in a large dead tree. I watch all of this most days from my car, as do other members of staff in our busy car parking areas.

A short while ago (maybe a couple of weeks) I was very alarmed to see tractors and machinery chopping down trees in the middle and clearing vegetation. Over the next few days they continued to clear more. I had to do something, before the whole lot went! I know the land is privately owned and I'm sure the owner can do exactly as he/she likes and I'm sure there is nothing anyone can do about it, but I wasn't sure of the law, so decided to seek advice to find out what was going on.

I rang the East of England Forestry Commission for advice and I was told that the owner is:
"opening up a glade within the wood, which will be put down to grass, but the rest of the wood will just be thinned. The wood is covered by a Woodland Tree Preservation Order which is put in place by the Planning Dept generally when they think that a wood is of high amenity value, it is basically the best protection that can be afforded to a woodland as any felling work has to be okayed by the local council......"

I emailed back to point out all the wildlife etc that has been lost in this wood etc and that goodness knows how many snakes, hedgehogs etc were killed off as the machines were taking all the tree roots etc out! I listed all the species I have seen in the wood and highlighted the grass snakes and adders which are a protected species. The woodpecker tree had been felled – very sad. The 'glade' is a massive area that they have felled. The wood is not huge - the area felled is probably more than half of the size of the entire wood! It's much more than a 'glade'! Its completely heartbreaking. When the Forestry Commission gentleman I was speaking to told me that the cleared area was going to be grassed, I was completely mystified! Why go to all this bother of stripping out all of this wonderful wood to replace it with green turf? I couldn't see the point? It must have cost a lot of money to get those contractors in and they are still there today – clearing and flattening this massive area of ground.

The Forestry Commission gentleman told me that the Tree Officer at the council was also involved, so I phoned him also and found out more! Apparently there is going to be sheep grazing on the grassed area. This is even more strange. Why would someone clear a wood, to lay grass, to graze sheep yards from the hospital grounds and extremely close to the very fast A149? All sounds rather strange to me! Also, locals walk their dogs through here (most off leads), so I am guessing there is a public right of way through here? If there is, then I don't think sheep and dogs are going to mix do you?!!! It doesn't add up at all.

Yesterday, I sat having my lunch in the car and for the first time in many many years I didn't see a single bird. I always see a minimum of Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Blackbird in here every day in my lunch time. All the cover for the birds has gone, bare, stripped and all for some bloody grass, makes me so angry. My 'patch' has been destroyed!

When I finished work last night I took some pictures and this video (below) of the wood. The video is 8.5 minutes long and its a bit shakey as I walk through – the light was also fading fast. There was far more cleared than I had thought – it saddened me immensely. I will be keeping a close eye over the coming days and weeks! Maybe I have got it all wrong – maybe a wonderful pond will be dug out and improved planting with bird hides, feeders and a nature trail....... dream on Penelope! I will keep you all posted.
The Wood next to the QEH Hospital – 2nd February

I have been given some very very useful information and advice from a very kind blog reader. This information was sent via my blog. When someone comments on my blog, I can choose whether to publish the comment or delete it – I don't have that persons email, so can only continue conversation with them publicly via my blog. I don't want to divulge that persons name, so could not publish it, but I have copied the comment, minus the person's name and also a few words which might give away my blog readers ID:

"...........I bet that what is happening is something like this. Landowner wants to develop the land, possibly in collaboration with the hospital (NHS managers are notoriously ruthless I'm afraid when it comes to converting environmental assetts into healthcare cash) but the TPOs are blocking this. So they concoct a scheme to "improve" the woodland typically through "thinning". The forestry commission and local council will love this as they hate scruffy " wasteland", verges, hedgerows etc and if the plan involves some vague reference to improved amenity value and biodiversity (that'll be the sheep) this will go through the necessary approvals like a shot. They then "improve" ie decimate the wood and in only a few years will be able to quite accurately claim that it has diminished in environmental value to the point where the TPO can be revoked and is of unusable as amenity land because the dogs are terrorising the sheep. QED. The only real hope you have of stopping this (assuming my jaundiced assessment is correct) is local concerted community action, publicity and councillor logging - they do not like being bearded in their own dens or the papers but social media may well be your best bet. Find out who the landowner is and check the planning history to see if this has been submitted for development before and then you have your smoking gun. I hope I'm wrong but frankly the odds are with me.........."

A big thank you to the person who sent the above comment. Now – after reading above, let me surmise........ the hospital is VERY short of car parking spaces and this has been an ongoing problem. I wonder if the land owner will be renting/selling the land to the hospital for car parking further down the line?!!!!! Like I said earlier, sheep and skipping lambs grazing on grass doesn't wash with me – no pennies to be made from that is there?!!!

I have contacted a very important person this evening, who will hopefully be able to help me further – can't say any more than that yet. Will update you when I am able to over the next few days.


  1. Blimey, that's nearly all the wood gone! Shocking. You can bet there's some sort of EU grant behind this....

    1. Awful Sue isn't it!!! There's certainly something going on and I intend to get to the bottom of it.

  2. Penny

    Well done! for caring about this and finding out about it.

    It's good that you think of this wood as 'your patch' but as you know, it belongs to someone else. They can do what they like with it provided they stick to the law. As you've already found out, there are regulations about felling of trees and preservation of woodland, but the landowner has a great deal of freedom on their land - just like you do in your garden (if you have one).

    I'd try to contact the landowner, nicely, and tell them how much you enjoy their wood, and how rich it is in birds and other wildlife as a start. They probably won't know as much about their wood as you do. Then ask them, nicely, what this management is for and and what their plans are for the wood. They don't have to tell you, but they might.

    Three further points:

    1. You've already done a lot to bring this site to the attention of FC and the Council. Well done! that will probably mean that any plans for it in future are scrutinised a little more keenly than would otherwise happen.

    2. Woodland management often makes a mess of a place in the short term but can improve it in the longer term. Thinning woodland is likely to improve the site for many species (or maintain its importance) although I am not saying that will be the case here - it's worth keeping in mind though.

    3. There is a lot of science that shows that access to nature (nice views, bird feeders, even nature in the form of a pot plant) hastens recovery of hospital patients. It might be worth spreading that message at work and keeping it in mind for the value of this woodland site. Here are a few links but you'll find a lot more if you search.

    Good luck and good birding!


    1. Hi Mark! Thank you very much indeed for taking the time to respond, with helpful advice and interesting web links. I have done alot more than I have written on my blog, but can't say anymore yet. One has to be very careful what you write publicly! Thanks Penny

  3. Penny

    As soon as I started reading your post, more car parking came into my head, I have seen this creeping woodland destruction over many years. Having retired about five years ago having worked in Theatres for 40 years, first at London Road, and then at the QE when it opened in 1980. We had a much smaller car park, and of course it was free, I spent many happy times watching the wildlife at lunch time, and many times when coming in or going home at daybreak after being called in when on call. Over the years I have watched lots of wildlife disappear as habitats, grassland and woodland has been ripped up and concreted over or built on, management have never given a sh** about the environment, they just come out with rubbish and are not interested in what was once a nice DGH set in beautiful surroundings. So saddened to read your account and see the photographs of what is happening.


    1. Thank you for responding George. There have been lots of trees cut down to make way for more car parking, as is publicly known. Several oaks were apparently 'diseased'when you read the public planning notices on the West Norfolk Website. There was a 100 year old oak that looked a healthy speciman to me, but that was one of the 'diseased' trees apparently. It sounds like you had a lovely time enjoying the wildlife in a much richer habitat than I have been over the last few years – nice memories for you. Best Wishes Penny