My comments below are on what I think are two separate issues, the sycamore/Norway Maple Avenue and the ‘wildlife area’. My intention is not to cause offence to anyone but to offer my personal views. People get upset about trees and wildlife so please remember I am not attacking you personally. I’ve been a visitor to Alex Park for nearly forty years but I don’t think I know any of the people involved personally.
Sycamore/Norway Maple Avenue. Very well made video but really, what does it tell us? That if you go into your local park and ask people who are walking through, “Do you like trees and wildlife?” What are they going to say?
Not one of these nice people made any informed comments about ecology, landscape design or trees, only purely reactionary and emotional ones. They naturally love their local park and its trees. What would you expect them to say when they have no real in-depth knowledge of the issues involved?
I don’t remember it but it appears that the avenue of sycamores and Norway maples was planted in the 1960s or early 70’s to replace the original terrace gardens. This was not part of the original design. The planting of this avenue was poorly thought through and as a result, visually it doesn’t work very well.
It is a mish mash of different species and varieties and honestly looks a mess when in leaf. Look at the main avenue – all limes, one species, all the same. Aligned north south so that it uses the light well but doesn’t cast too much shade. This is how to do it; this is how a proper garden designer would do it. The sycamore/Norway maple avenue was presumably planted by the park’s gardeners of the time. You can see what they intended, all Acers, but let’s throw everything in – a classic beginners mistake. They did too much and this is perhaps understandable because it would be their only chance to ever plant an avenue. Alternatively, maybe they just had a few mixed trees left over at the end of the planting season; it’s that poor a design. Poor as a design and not good for wildlife either. Maybe, if they had planted an avenue of English oaks – now there would be a thing worth preserving.
We have got used to seeing the park without any flowers but this was not the way it was supposed to be. The original terrace gardens were placed there to catch the sun – nothing in the original design of the park is an accident. What if it was the other way round? What if the flowerbeds were still there? How would park users react if it were proposed to remove the flowerbeds and replace them with a job-lot mix of sycamores and Norway maples? Maybe there would be a petition to save the flowerbeds?
If you walk round all of Alexandra Park and look into the landscape as a whole, you will see that it is a fabulous thing. It is great. This hasn’t just happened; it takes genius design from a genius landscape designer. However, over the years less inspired staff will want to plant trees in the park and the original design objectives can be obscured. The wonderful thing about Alexandra Park is that the original landscape is largely intact and now grown to maturity. It is still capable of being restored and surely, that’s the reason why the Heritage Lottery Fund want to give it all that money in the first place.
Think of it in terms of an old master painting that has been poorly restored over may decades and then finally, it gets restored to its original state and viewers say, “I can’t believe how lovely and bright it now looks”.
Just look at the plans, they’re not going to fell many of the mature trees and why would they? The big trees are part of the original design.
The ‘Wildlife Area’. Not part of the original design and not great and yet somehow it does fit into the landscape – I like it. However, lets not get carried away. Its ecological importance has been over inflated. To say the area was a ‘raised bog’ before the park was built is only correct if you go back a few hundred years, maybe even a couple of thousand. It is well known and recorded that the area was farmland when the council purchased the land to make the park. To call it a wetland, moss land or whatever is only correct in the sense that it is currently wet. This is only because the drainage system is in need of repair. Just look at the big trees growing in the water in the video. They could not have established in the first place in a swamp and will fail at the roots if the drainage is not restored.
The park staff planted the wildlife area in the 1980s (if I remember correctly) against local opposition. What was the name of the famous local campaigner, Mrs Tipping? “It will just encourage drug taking and prostitution” They must have ignored public opinion and planted it anyway. Nowadays of course, there would be an online petition to prevent it going ahead in the first place.
A few years on and park users now love it. “It’s like being in the country.” “It is certainly the best part of the park for birds.” If they think about it at all, most people probably assume that it must always have been there (since the end of the last ice age presumably) or that it has developed by itself without human intervention. This is good and shows how good a job those much maligned parkies did.
It may be it’s own worst enemy in this respect if the Heritage Lottery’s experts also assume that it wasn’t planted but is simply a result of neglect by those same parkies.
So. I would like the sycamore/Norway maple avenue removed and replaced by flowerbeds as per the original design but I would also vote to keep not just all of the wildlife area but to improve it. Let them use not just horticultural experts but ecological specialists as well. Do we not think that this would be a good compromise with neither side loosing too much face?
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Hear hear. People can be misguided and over emotional. The investment and restoration of this park is good news and will provide lots of social facilities for the community. I notice that the protesters are not particularly representative of the local community, where are these local people whose benefit this is for?
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