Fri, 14 Feb 2020
THE decision to cut down dozens of trees along a pathway has been described as “a disgusting act of ecological vandalism”.
Speen Moor permissive pathway was closed for six months for restoration work, but upon reopening in January it was discovered that a significant proportion of ash trees along the pathway had been chopped down.
In a letter to the landowners, Benham Estate, Green Party district councillor David Marsh described the move as heartbreaking.
He said: “I walk there several times a week with my dog and for me, and many others, you have completely ruined the area.
“Much of it – for example the places where dogs (and occasionally people) like to swim – is unrecognisable.
“Actually, it’s heartbreaking.
“The work you have carried out has had a devastating impact on this beautiful part of Newbury.”
The route, just over half-a-mile long, runs from Speen – through Speen Moor Plantation and the flood meadows of the River Kennet – to the towpath of the Kennet and Avon Canal.
Mr Marsh posted photos of the felling on his Facebook page, drawing reactions of shock from other users of the pathway.
One user labelled it a “disgusting act of ecological vandalism”, while another said “that was my favourite swimming and walking spot… heartbroken to see the results”.
In a response to Mr Marsh – seen by the Newbury Weekly News – Benham Estate rural operations manager Grant Baker admitted that the pathway looks unsightly, but said many of the ash trees along it were diseased, at significant risk of falling and posed a health and safety risk.
Mr Baker said it was part of a larger project to provide a safe and enjoyable community area while maximising the potential for habitat creation and rejuvenation.
He said the estate had consulted with Natural England about the restoration and come to the decision to do one period of work rather than undertake annual management – and that no further felling was planned.
Mr Baker went on to say that work on the pathway was still incomplete, but the estate had been pressured to reopen it by West Berkshire Council and the community.
The path will have to be closed for short periods to finish work – such as piling branches and trunks to decay to create habitat, while there are further bridge repairs and riverbank restoration required – although they have been advised by an ecologist to leave the majority of the area to naturally regenerate.
There are also future plans for the pathway and surrounding area, with the estate working with ecology specialists.
Ideas include a community area, including a designated bird nesting area, and creating small ponds to attract wildlife.
The estate are also considering whether to develop a formal picnic area.