HS2 announces new landmark as 700,000 trees planted and over 100 new habitats thriving on Phase One of the project
As part of our extensive environmental programme, our contractors have now planted 700,000 trees and created over 100 wildlife sites along the route between the West Midlands and London.
The wildlife sites represent a mix of different habitat types, including grassland, woodland, scrub and ponds, and are already havens for wildlife including birds, bats, barn owls, badgers, great crested newts, butterflies and dragonflies.
Alongside our environmental contractors, we have designed tailored ecology plans that provide habitats for local wildlife and protected species including new badger setts, bat houses, bird boxes, reptile banks and bug houses, along with wildflower seeding, aquatic habitat creation and the reintroduction of native flora to help local wildlife populations thrive.
Up to 7 million trees will eventually be planted alongside the line from the West Midlands to London and we will leave behind more than 33 square kilometres of new woodland, wildlife and river habitats – the equivalent of 23 new Hyde Parks lining the spine of the country.
In addition, our Woodland Fund has also allocated over £1.2m as part of a grant scheme managed by the Forestry Commission, with 213,000 trees already planted including 92 hectares of new woodland creation and 52 hectares of ancient woodland restoration. For example, a project at Avon Wood in Warwickshire has created a diverse new 11-hectare woodland within three miles of the new railway. More than 18,000 new trees have been planted there, with 30% of the woodland being oak, with the rest mainly made up of hornbeam, alder, beech, lime, holly and birch.
We are continuing to progress with potential new schemes to be supported through the Woodland Fund, which could eventually support an additional 440 hectares of new native woodland creation as well as the restoration of 245 hectares of existing ancient woodland sites. Every habitat site is designed specifically to support local biodiversity, to link up existing wildlife habitats and create ecological networks which help to protect, maintain and enhance biodiversity and allow species to move through the landscape.
Examples of new habitats sites include:
- In Warwickshire, Finham Brook was previously a short-grazed field with no flowers and very few invertebrates. Since 2018, our contractor Keystone Environmental has planted over 6,000 trees, created four new ponds and a new 35 metre reptile basking bank. The ponds are already being used by great crested newts, skylarks, barn owls, badgers, and dragonflies and butterflies.
- At South Cubbington Wood, also in Warwickshire, environmental contractor Five Rivers Environmental Contracting have planted 60,000 trees, along with species-rich grasslands. They have created seven new ponds designed for newts to breed in, as well as attracting other wildlife such as frogs, swallows, swifts and badgers. Like many of HS2’s new habitat sites, Cubbington has public rights of way, so local people are able to enjoy the habitats that have been created.
- At Bernwood in Buckinghamshire, an ecologically and historically valuable area includes a network of ancient woodlands that are home to a range of wildlife, including rare and important species like Bechstein’s Bat and the Black Hairstreak butterfly. Our extensive tree planting has linked existing woodlands to create new bat flightlines away from the railway corridor, and several green bridges will maintain connectivity across the railway and between habitats.
- In the Colne Valley, we have revealed ambitious plans to create one of the largest areas of chalk grassland on the edge of the Chilterns. The site will receive a continuous supply of chalk from the nearby tunnelling underneath the Chilterns Hills until 2024, helping to establish over 127 hectares of new chalk grassland, woodland, wood pasture and wetland habitats. Field trials are currently in preparation ahead of final seeding, and planting of trees and shrubs in 2025.
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