During National Tree Week, and as HS2 starts its next season of tree planting, the project is celebrating the first five years of habitat creation on Phase One.
Over 845,000 trees have now been planted and maintained including native species such as hazel, hawthorn, oak, blackthorn and silver birch. Ecology companies along the Phase One route have created 119 new wildlife sites which are already thriving homes for wildlife, ensuring HS2 protects the country’s precious biodiversity and leaves a lasting legacy for local communities.
Many acres of new wetland, heathland and meadow have been created and HS2 has also built homes for wildlife including 2,000 bat boxes either within HS2’s wildlife sites or in existing nearby woodlands.
Around 150 hibernacula and 65 reptile banks have been created which provide new homes for reptiles and amphibians, helping local wildlife thrive and support delicately balanced local ecosystems. Over 160 barn owl boxes and 29 artificial badger setts have also been created and thousands of newts have been successfully rehomed.
David Prys-Jones, Biodiversity Lead at HS2 Ltd said:
“We’re now five years into our extensive environment programme to create more than 33 square kilometres of new wildlife habitats along the HS2 route, the equivalent of 23 new Hyde Parks lining the spine of the country. In this year’s National Tree Week, it’s fantastic to see our wildlife habitats thriving, but this is really just the beginning. Over the coming years, our ecology contractors will continue to create more habitats to sustain healthy populations of UK flora and fauna, providing a network of bigger, better-connected, climate resilient habitats and new green spaces for wildlife and people to enjoy.”
In Warwickshire, ecologists have created new wildlife sites including around South Cubbington Wood, where 60,000 trees have been planted, and 17 hectares of habitat created. This includes over six hectares of new broadleaved woodland linking the habitats of South Cubbington Wood and the River Leam Corridor, and around two hectares of translocated ancient woodland soils and associated planting to join up South Cubbington Wood and Weston Wood.
Seven new ponds are attracting swallows and swifts and providing homes for newts, frogs and insects around South Cubbington Wood too. There are also refuges and basking banks for reptiles, bat boxes and fruit trees for bats, and in the Spring this year, a blanket of bluebells and campions grew from the soil that was translocated in 2020.
Looking ahead, HS2’s construction partner in Warwickshire and the West Midlands, Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV) and their environmental partners will plant almost 1,000 hectares of woodland, hedgerow, wildflower grassland and wetland across the region – about the area of 1,300 football pitches – as part of HS2’s Green Corridor.
Amy Middlemist, Landscape Lead at Balfour Beatty VINCI said:
“We’re proud to play our part in helping HS2 reach this major milestone. The planting activity we’ve carried out so far is already having a positive impact on our sites across the Midlands. We’re looking to build on this, by continuing to deliver on an ambitious landscape and habitat creation programme in the months and years ahead.”