Today was one of those glorious Autumn days, cold and bright, with a lovely fresh smell in the air. For a while now I’ve been wondering how many trees the council planted alongside the new dual carriageway near me have actually survived, so I thought I go take a look. Short answer from the small survey of 216 trees on one particular stretch: 16% have died.
The Northern Distributor Road (NDR) has been open for a few years now, and had lots of trees planted alongside it to try to restore the damage done by the road. We’re supposed to call it the Broadland Northway now; I think this is probably an effort by Norfolk County Council to disguise the fact that its purpose is to open up the countryside to more development, distributing traffic to new parts of the county.
Unfortunately, many of the trees planted have died due to the extreme weather we’ve been having. It’s just been too hot and dry, and they haven’t been watered sufficiently. A plethora of plastic tree guards now stand empty in many places, grave markers for the saplings that have sadly perished. It was good to see so many other plants growing in the verge alongside the road, however I’m sure Yarrow shouldn’t be flowering at this time of year; I guess that’s because of how warm it’s been.
My plant ID skills aren’t brilliant, but I saw Comfrey, Yarrow, Ribwort and Greater Plantain, as well as thistles, Red Campion, Hogweed, Common Mugwort in abundance, Oxeye Daisies and Buttercups. There were loads of other species however I’ll have to take along a guide to ID them next time. Roadside verges can contain lots of biodiversity, I’ve seen hares feeding alongside the cycle path, kestrels hunting, and lots of insects in the summer. However, I don’t think the verges really make up for the swathe of destruction caused when the road was built.
Today was an exploratory visit. I counted trees on a hundred metre stretch not far from the Plumsteads, noting down species as well as dead or missing trees. I concentrated on the eastern side of the bank built up next to the dual carriageway, which is more shaded. The western side looked to have more empty tree guards, however it’ll need a return visit to confirm this. Results of this initial exploratory survey below.
Here’s a pie chart of the results.
Field Maple came our top, followed by Hawthorn, however it was good to see other species mixed in such as Cherry, Spindle, a good number of English Oaks, Dogwood and Blackthorn. Lots of good species for wildlife to use. Unfortunately 16% of the tree guards were either standing empty, or had dead saplings inside them. I suspect the percentage is in fact a bit higher than this as some tree guards have either been removed or have blown away. I think the western side of the bank will have a bigger percentage of dead trees, and I know other stretches have been impacted to a greater or lesser degree. I’ll have to get out and do other surveys in different locations.
I believe around 6,000 trees were cut down to build the NDR, a road that cost £205m to build. It was reported in October last year that around 3,500 of the trees planted to replace those lost when the road was built have died. Norfolk County Council pledged to plant 5 trees for every 1 they cut down, 30,000 in total. They must be a long way off this target, especially as many more trees and shrubs, lots of them replacement replacements, perished during the heatwave this summer.
It’s frustrating that Norfolk County Council think you can just replace mature trees and habitat, destroyed to make way for road building, with saplings that will take decades to do anything meaningful in terms of carbon sequestration. It will also take centuries for the soil to recover, species to translocate, and for any sort of mature woodland landscape to settle back in. The Council are planning the same with the Northern Distributor Road; it just doesn’t add up when we’re in a climate and ecological emergency, not to mention the impact it has on local communities, flood mitigation, and local wildlife. It’s also frustrating to see so many empty plastic tree guards littering parts of the landscape next to the NDR.
I hope to get out for further surveys over the coming weeks so I can report back findings to Broadland Green Party, who will be able to raise this with Broadland District Council. Tree ID gets a bit trickier as they lose their leaves, so I’ll have to put my winter buds knowledge to use.
No pictures of Gideon on this blog post I’m afraid, he’s hiding somewhere after having an argument with one of the neighbour’s cats. I’ll leave you with some pictures of a glorious Norfolk sunset from the other evening.