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See: Roberts Park Restoration Index | This article added: 15 February 2008


[For more information on Roberts Park Restoration, follow this link]

Jane Travis of HTLA writes: Many of the questionnaires from the Stage 1 and Stage 2 consultations highlighted visitors’ concerns that they felt some areas of the Park were dark and gloomy and this made them feel unsafe when visiting. As part of the consultation at Stage 2 the public were advised there would be tree works required and at the beginning of July last year we organised guided tree walks led by an experienced arboriculturist for anyone to attend.

You may have seen that there is already activity in the Park as the Council is starting to undertake essential tree works to make the park feel a safer place whilst at the same time ensuring that some of the fine specimens have the light and space to thrive. The information below gives a little more background on what is being done and why.

Roberts Park, although relatively small, has a number of trees of great merit and interest. These include trees that were probably growing before the Park was opened, in 1871; others planted by the Park designers; and yet others that were introduced in later years, from many parts of the world.

The trees have been largely ignored for many years and a number are no longer in good condition. There is a lot of overcrowding and this has caused loss and damage to trees that would otherwise be thriving. In addition, there are parts of the Park where it is dark and feels rather unsafe, and important historic views have been lost. Therefore, in order to improve the health of the best trees in Roberts Park, reopen views and increase the sense of security in the Park, a programme of tree removals and formative tree surgery is planned.

§ The fine, mature oak trees on the north-east bank below the Terrace will benefit from having some space and light around them.

§ The magnificent beech trees in the northern half of the Park must be at least 150 years of age. Some careful tree surgery will help to keep them in good condition.

§ The variegated sycamores – which must have been especially selected by the Victorian designers of the Park – will grow more vigorously than at present, when adjacent scrub holly and self-seeded sycamore is removed.

§ The historic Cornus mas, or Cornelian cherry, is a very interesting and venerable plant. Located just near the fossil, on the NW side of the Park, it requires some tlc – and some more light and space around it.

§ There are many large black pines in the Park. These picturesque trees are not native, but were widely planted in the 19th century, partly because they tolerate industrial pollution so effectively. In places, these trees contribute to the very dark canopy that overhangs some areas of the Park. The removal of a small number of these trees will create the light and space to allow the planting of new trees and shrubs.

§ There is one, fairly small, Ginkgo biloba in the Park. This tree is the sole survivor of a very ancient family of trees, related to ferns, occurring in many parts of the world about 190 million years ago. The species was first introduced to England in 1754. In Roberts Park, it is being overwhelmed by an adjacent holly. Coppicing the holly – that is, cutting it back to about 1 metre high so it will grow more as a bush than a tree – will allow the Ginkgo more space to flourish.

§ In the north-west corner of the Park, there is one Sequoiadendron giganteum. Otherwise known as a ‘Wellingtonia’, named after the ‘iron Duke’ of Wellington because of the great strength of the tree, this species was introduced to Britain in 1853 from California. It can live for up to 2,000 years – though the one in the Park may not be much more than fifty! It will be possible to see and appreciate this tree better once some of the adjacent hollies are removed or coppiced.

§ There are lots of hollies in the Park. It has been said that Sir Titus admired and collected them. On inspection, it will be seen that there are many different kinds: cream and golden variegated hollies; green ones with contorted leaves; hollies with pink or red berries; weeping hollies; some with green, yellow or even dark purple stems; trees with very prickly leaves; and other where the leaves are almost entire. There are so many hollies in the Park that some are being overwhelmed, others have self-seeded with abandon, and important, historic views have been obscured. Removing, pruning and coppicing many of these hollies will leave space for the better ones to grow more strongly and will reopen important, designed views throughout the Park.

Surveys have been carried out to make sure that trees being removed or cut back are not home to bats. If workers notice any signs of bird nests in the trees during the works then it will be stopped immediately.

The trees that are cut down will be turned into wood chips to fuel the new bio-mass boilers at City Hall and branches that are cut back will be shredded into mulch, which will be used on the district's flower beds.

Jane Travis, Practice Manager, HTLA


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