Controlled chaos – and soon the sundial!

by John Miles

Great improvement to Martins Walk
Great improvement to Martins Walk

Saturday was the first of the month. Eight of us clearing and tidying our tiny open spaces and a couple of other people out before and after, this month’s big job renewing the bark paths in the lavender garden. The late spring’s mixture of cold, rain and moderate heat has turned out spectacularly. First everything went green on a massive scale and now it’s starting to flower. Controlled chaos in the lavender garden. Self-seeded, indigenous, plants – ‘weeds’ – have flourished in the rich soil of the rainbeds Haringey installed at Mayes Corner.

Taking polluted water off the road
Taking polluted water off the road

The ‘rill’, which drains dirty water into the forebay on the corner is in place at last. The new trees the Council put in on Alexandra Road and the nearby streets are in good shape. Community spirit is alive and well too – just look at the sturdy new fence a neighbour has installed on Martin’s Walk. Throwing in the repair of next-door’s battered panels for good measure! Our first compost bin is in place at the shrubbery where we’ve delayed till autumn the much-needed pruning of the canopy – parts of the rainbed need more light. The Council has made a good start on the knotweed outside the doctors - we could start restoring that hedge we planned there ten years ago!

The rain washed away our first micro-education project!
The rain washed away our first micro-education project!

Not everything is sweetness and light. People who prefer pigeons still dump food waste by the Mayes Corner seating. Rose branches get torn off and plants pulled up unnecessarily. A loquat sapling was taken from the Umoja bed. Nature is all over TV but everywhere in retreat. The Council still ‘treats’ the greenery round the boles of trees with weed-killer and mows some grass patches better left untouched. The rewilding activist Ben MacDonald refers to this as eco-cide – deliberately killing off part of the food-chain needed by insects and birds. Britain is one of the most species-depleted countries in the world. Haringey has gone crazy felling mature trees even as its politicians and planners promise the opposite. 

Controlled chaos in the lavender garden
Controlled chaos in the lavender garden

The Council intends a new Biodiversity Action Plan. We certainly need it here. St William, for example, have set a council-backed target of 71% biodiversity gain. That’s 71% of what? And starting from when? You wonder how they can possibly achieve this, the loss of habitat on the Heartlands in the last decade has been so dramatic. As the towers go up neighbours at the southern end say they’ve lost all their wildlife. This spring there has been no dawn chorus on the west side of Hornsey Park Road. The song thrushes are gone, the kestrels and lesser black-backed gulls are a distant memory. The daily wood-pecker no longer visits, the wren rarely calls. Even blackbird and robin feel like occasional visitors. No doubt, as the estate is completed, it will get better – the bees on the alliums in the new park are a definite ‘gain’. But, sadly, imaginative planting isn’t the answer. Those vital acres of birch scrub and elder will not come back. Haringey planners needs to take a much tougher line protecting open space. 

Careful mowing round yellow goats-beard in Hornsey Park Road!
Careful mowing round yellow goats-beard in a Hornsey Park Road back garden.

We will carry on regardless, of course. Thanks to the many people whose private gardens make our streets a joy - those overgrown hedges that sustain our growing sparrow population, for example. And look out – sometime this summer that sundial Marcus has been promising will finally appear!

4 comments on “Controlled chaos – and soon the sundial!”

  1. Great piece John. The Council have been lavishing Glyphosate on footpaths, verges and under trees again. The Council's tree expert has advised that allowing wild plants to grow around saplings is harmful while they are establishing. I know this is the established view, but I think that a light coverage of small plants is good for the soil and hinders water loss. Am noticing the diminishing wild life and feared there would be precious habitat loss as a result of the Heartlands development. Similar story the world over as burgeoning human populations require ever more resources. Thank you and the rest of the PMRA landscape gardeners for all your hard work. So very much appreciated.

  2. Thanks for this great response, Khaled. We could show you the various community gardens in 45 minutes one morning when you've time.

  3. Amazing work! I love all your creativity, love and care put into recognising the dire SOS our planet earth has been crying out for sooooo long! Please let me know how I can join in! I’ll come with my buckets loads of seeds!

  4. This is a great article. I enjoyed reading your descriptions of your neighbourhood. It is clear to see that you are very passionate about the area. Keep up the great work John and the neighbours.

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