News archive: March 2003

Special protest edition against network rail tree cutting

Network Rail, who are charged with responsibility for maintaining the land beside the railways have, since February 2003 locally and October 2002 nationally, embarked upon a policy of clear felling trees, all trees. They are claiming safety as their reason and somehow trying to argue that trees 100s of feet from the line, down steep embankments, present a safety risk to rail travellers. A leaf may blow onto the line! Their idea of consultation is to send a bland glossy leaflet which makes the same argument, and offer a customer relations helpline number that might as well be an answering machine message (a rather irritable one) for all the responsiveness of the reply.

By 12th March local people in St Werburghs were fed up with being fobbed off and having their intelligence insulted by network rail’s inane justifications so over 40 gathered in the early morning and disuaded the chainsaw wielding contractors from continuing with their clear felling. BBC, HTV, Radio Bristol and the Bristol Evening Post all gave full coverage to the campaign.

network rail’s idea of environmental maintenance

And local people have kept up the momentum – leafletting, petitioning, telephoning and writing to Network Rail, enlisting support from local MP, Val Davey and local councillors Dudley Saward and Helga Benson. Pressure from environmental bodies helped to make Network Rail send out an environmental consultant. However, he appeared to have his report already written before setting foot on the site and any local information people tried to supply him with about wildlife he treated as an unnecessary distraction. The group held a successful protest at Temple Meads station, accompanied by a symbolic pile of logs. 250 rail commuters immediately signed up in support of the protest.

A constant vigil has been maintained on the site and individuals & organisations that may be able to influence network rail are being contacted.

We now keep hearing of similar cack-handed environmental management by network rail nationally, responsible for killing badgers on a lineside sett in London, clear felling an embankment near Winchesterand another in Herefordshire,endangering wildlife in Leicestershire and near Weston-super-Mare, Manchester and on and on to a railway line near you… Their contractor Fountains Forestry even boast on their website of the wildlife deserts they leave behind.

Network Rail had, until last week, pages of their website extolling their environmental policy claiming fine sentiments such as”the company in all cases will make every attempt to conserve wild plants and animals and their habitats. If any work or development of Network Rail land would cause disturbance to wildlife, every effort is made to..minimise the disturbance” and”we aim to be sensitive in our management of natural and heritage features, taking into consideration the views of all those with an interest in our activities and working with them where appropriate.” They have even produced Biodiversity Action Plans and used Professor David Bellamy to endorse them on behalf of the wildlife trusts. We thought Dr. Bellamy would be interested in hearing how network rail have decided to interpret this on the ground…

So the campaign continues with its emminently reasonable request to network rail to consult with representatives who realise that trees need to be removed where they encroach upon/threaten line safety but who just want them to show some environmental sensitivity and compromise as they claim in their environmental policy. They want them to keep their hands off Narroways nature area and, oh yeah, to explain how trees can fall 100ft uphill onto the track!

Narroways Millennium Green Trust meetings are held once a month in the St Werburghs area -The next meeting is at 8.00 p.m. on Monday 7th April 2003 at The Miners Arms on Mina Rd., St Werburghs. All who care about the local environment are welcome.

Wildlife Observations

A party of 7 long-tailed-tits was seen in the Community Orchard in November. There was a brightly coloured male Bullfinch by the Church Field and an overwintering Blackcap in a garden in St Werburghs Park. A Green Woodpecker was seen feeding in a garden on Boiling Wells Lane. A Song Thrush was singing by Lynmouth Road allotments in December and a flock of 7 Redwings seen in Simon’s Grove early January.

There is lots of evidence of at least one local fox and regular sightings of Jay. On 23rd Febrary over 100 frogs were seen in one local pond and a few days later a Sparrowhawk was seen flying by with a frog in its mouth (throat?) Finally, some early sightings – a Red Admiral by railway side in Montpelier on 19th January, a Comma & a Chiffchaff (first summer warbler) by the Stoney Path on 18th March, and a bat seen flying by lane past Simon’s Grove on 18th March. It must be all this sunny weather we’ve been having in March. Remember we are now producing quarterly email reports of wildlife sightings on Narroways and district. If anyone would like to be put on the mailing list or have any local wildlife sightings to report please contact us at We are planning a survey of the flora on Narroways in the summer and already have some willing volunteers.

Narroways Hill is used occasionally by other groups but the trustees should be contacted (via St Werburghs City Farm or our email address) for any Organised Group Activities(beyond the usual dog walking, blackberrying, picnicing, sledging, didgeridoo playing, small discrete fireworks party sort of stuff) The main reasons are to preserve the wild environment, protect the wildlife there, and respect other people’s rights to a quiet green space in the city.

Woodland Development Plan We have been looking at doing minor works in the Ash woodland at Narroways. At some point a few trees growing out of the masonry on the railway tunnel may need cutting back but mainly we are looking at how we might be able to enhance the wildlife value of the woods without overmanaging them. We hope to put up nesting boxes and bat boxes at some point next year.

Naomi organised a very successful volunteer day on 15th March – several volunteers turned up to repair fences, clear litter, remove graffiti and do various repairs. MoreVolunteer Work Days for Narroways have been scheduled in advance for 2003. They are on Saturday mornings on May 17th, July 12th and September 13th and are a great way to get involved and do something practical. We usually meet at 21 St Werburghs Park around 10.30. There will probably be additional summer weekday evening sessions. Also the Community Service team, Liaise have been helping us by clearing away the last of the old chainlink fence and removing brambles from alongside Stoney Path.

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