Friday, 6 May 2011

Travelling Boxes and Preserving Nature

In recent years there have been many protests about the plan to build a high speed railway line out of London, cutting through the Chiltern Hills not very far from where I live. Groups such as the Chiltern Countryside Group are protesting at the need to destroy beautiful countryside and important wild life habitats should be destroyed so that people can save a few minutes by travelling in railway carriages on a brand new railway to the Midland.

Clearing a way for travelling boxes
I have been walking rural footpaths near Tring for over 45 years, including the footpath behind the temporary wooden fence on the left of the picture. For most of these years the area between the path and the hedge on the right was a wilderness of hedgerow type trees and shrubs, full of birds nesting in the summer and feeding off the natural larder of berries in the winter. 

Most days I take a rural walk and today  the area has been cleared and the builders were at work - and I have yet to see a word of protest in the local paper.

A recently restored section of the Wendover Arm
In fact the view will look a lot better in a year or two, as the area in this picture shows a place which looked very similar two years ago. 

The history is that over two hundred years ago a new canal (now the Grand Union Canal) was built between London and the Midlands, and a branch canal - the Wendover Arm - was built to collect extra water at the Tring Summit. About 100 years ago the branch was closed and is currently being restored by the Wendover Arm Trust

The reopened section at Little Tring
Hopefully in a few more years the restored section will be open as far as Buckland Wharf, and floating boxes called narrowboats will be seen slowly cruising between the hedgerows 

The loss of wild life habitat may be regretted - but the restoration will open up several extra miles of canal as far as Buckland Wharf.

The disused canal as a chalk stream near Wendover
Continuing the restoration all the way to Wendover will not be easy as several bridges, built after the canal was closed, need to be raise.  Should this be done it will have a far bigger effect on wild life, as the disused section has become a healthy chalk stream, easily viewed from the old tow path. If this section is restored to a muddy ditch churned up by canal boats its nature would be significantly changed. This would be a great loss because many of the natural chalk streams have be severely affected by the extraction of water. 


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