Bexley Council’s vegetation ‘maintenance’ has received some sharp criticism of late. Now the shrubs on the dam wall at Danson are being cut hard back. The Council has issued a notice to local residents explaining that this is because urgent repairs are required to the dam wall (which has a clay core) , as a result of Foxes burrowing into it and the general effects of long-term erosion. Massive damage would result from the wall failing, so in this instance the Council probably doesn’t have much room for manoeuvre.
The notice says:
The detailed design [of the re-structuring work] has commenced as has the first phase of the works. This initial phase of the works will see the existing vegetation cut down to just above ground level and is expected to be completed by the end of Friday 27th February 2015. This will prevent nesting birds from becoming established during the nesting season and will allow works to recommence as soon as the design is complete. During these initial works some closures of the footpath at the top of the dam will be necessary to ensure the safety of users of the park. During such closures signage will be in place advising of alternative routes.
The remaining phases will continue as soon as is practicable although it is hoped that the main works will be completed during the late spring early summer and thus avoid disturbance to park users and residents during the peak summer months. Again closures of the footpath along the top of the dam will be required to maintain public safety and protect the works.
As I indicated earlier the detailed design has yet to be completed but the final scheme will see the existing downstream slope repaired and strengthened and replanted with native wild grasses and wild flower species. Further details will be provided prior to the main works commencing when I shall write to you once more.’
The Council is only telling anyone what they are doing a couple of days beforehand – but at least that’s an improvement on the usual policy of scorched earth first and fend off the flak afterwards.
It is a shame that some of the larger shrubs, especially at the top of the north end of the dam wall, are being cut down, as they are used by House Sparrows and other birds. They may be allowed to grow back depending on the schedule of funding for the works, but are slated for ultimate removal. One obvious question that arises is why, given that the Council seems to have understood the erosion issue for some time, has it only very recently planted an unimaginative array of about 3 (non-native.) shrub species across the dam bank, leaving lots of bare earth between for the weather to wash down the slope? What a waste of money that is now going to be. Will the Council now dig these out carefully and re-use elsewhere (this would be a reasonable time of year to try moving them) , or even offer to local residents for free. Probably not …..
It is unlikely that a wildflower meadow of more delicate species could be established given the maintenance requirements and the Council’s funding constraints, so a simple mix of grasses and a hefty dose of Red Clover (for Bees) may be the best approach, leaving anything else to find its own way there. Fortunately there is plenty of cover for birds elsewhere in the park, and the Council’s enlightened policy of having planted a good number of whips to enlarge the copses on the south side of the lake will go some way towards making up for the loss of woody plants on the dam wall.