David Beeson, May 2023
If you visit the French city of Nice you may see that they are ripping up large chunks of their urban roads and derelict sites … and replacing them with green corridors – trees and shrubs. And they are very proud of that fact with huge posters proclaiming the policy. Believe me, seeing this in action gladdened my heart. Cars making way for greenery. Not something you spot every day.
With the climate emergency and biodiversity crashing, it is a policy that deserves to be seen more often.
I have just written to my local newspaper urging more green corridors in our urban setting. I’m hoping you might try something similar.
Now Andover, in rural north-west Hampshire (UK), has not done badly. We have plenty of trees being planted and our beautiful, clear and trout-filled River Anton is due to become ‘centre-stage’ in a modified town centre. We have a tree-strewn urban park at Picket Twenty, a mostly green corridor along the river and other local nature reserves, but mini, shrubby, urban corridors have, in my opinion, been neglected.
What am I after and why?
We do have a few neglected wild spaces left, and gardens offer habitats for common urban wildlife. Yet a two-metre high and wide multi-species hedge offers so much more. It offers food throughout the year in buds, leaves and fruit, nurtures invertebrates from butterflies to spiders to woodlice, offers nesting locations for even normally farmland birds, plus a routeway for small mammals and slowworms to enter our urban scene. Shrubs clean the air of both sound and pollutants, are a feast for the eyes with their frothy aromatic flowers and offer a changing view month after month – from the fresh spring leaves through to the autumnal colours.
The English are nature deprived. Our farmland is often sterile, and our woodlands are contaminated by non-native pheasants by the million (and when shot are lead-contaminated and a danger to eat). Ash trees, and before them, our majestic elm trees have been devastated by fungal diseases. Even our national oaks have their problems. We need more big vegetation. But, if green corridors are to be encouraged and existing ones joined, a wide range of local species are needed to build in future resilience.
Where standard trees already exist, we should look to underplant with shrubs, while leaving some minimally cut herby spots for herbaceous hedgerow plants such as stitchwort, red campion and clovers. And the policy of close cutting green of so many spaces should be reviewed. Cut only those locations genuinely needed for games and other leisure activities and the rest should be urban meadows.
My own grassy areas are left uncut in April and May … and they are currently a stunning yellow and white display. Buttercups and white daisies and meadow saxifrage are joined by several species of orchids that have seeded themselves. Our floral carpet came for free and generates both beauty and both pollen and nectar for the insects … and they feed the Barn Swallows.
Our hedges are home to small mammals, and these feed the tawny Owls whose daytime slumbers so annoy the Blackbirds.
Urban planning is so much better than in the C20, and credit must be given for such progress, now we should encourage even more shrub planting, plus the joining of existing wildlife locations with even rope ladders (for dormice and squirrels) over roads and paths. Ponds can be dug and linked to roof and roadway rainwater flows. (This road runoff, in the days of steam tractors, was used to fill dew** ponds for refilling water tanks – as just north of the Fox Inn at Tangley*. Urban ponds can divert water from sewage works and so help avoid sewage overflows into rivers.)
I know that folks suggest tree planting locations, but now we should also alert our planners to where green corridors could be located and linked.
*My students and I cleaned out this pond some years back. It had a silt trap where road water diverted into the pond, and a pipe into the deepest section that could be linked up to a steam traction engine’s water tank.
**See the nwhwildlife article on Dew Ponds – Dew is a corruption of the French for God … as God’s rain actually fills the pond and not dew!
www.nwhwildlife.org – homepage to nearly 200 wildlife and ecology articles. Ad-free!
One thought on “Green Corridors”
Great article promoting the importance of urban green corridors and their benefits for biodiversity. It’s inspiring to see cities like Nice leading the way in implementing green corridors and hopefully, more cities will follow suit.