Until a few weeks ago this lane in Headington Quarry was a pleasure to walk through. I went along it almost every day walking to the shops, bus stop or post box. It was a beautiful, rural footpath, lined by tall sycamores that created a natural avenue.
They were beautiful, noble and verdant, always full of birds and birdsong. Then suddenly, the City Council moved in with their chain-saws and overnight the whole lot were gone. The fact that this is the nesting season for birds, when tree-felling is supposedly illegal, did not deter them. As you walk along the lane now, instead of the voice of the blackbird, chaffinch and thrush there is just silence.
According to the Conservation Area Appraisal for this part of Oxford, The Stables is "an intimate wooded pathway ..., eventually opening out into a vehicular trackway." Well it's a lot less intimate and wooded now it has been robbed of all its trees. The Conservation Area Appraisal also says "trees play an important role in the green character of the village". It lists among the dangers to this area, "Loss of greenery and important green spaces". What is the point of the Council paying to have documents like this drawn up if it's just going to ignore them?
I still cannot quite believe the scale of the destruction. There are fewer and fewer broad-leaved native trees in Quarry. Over the past ten years they have been systematically cut down, and those that remain are drastically over-pruned to the point of having all their lower branches removed. Soon the only trees left will be rather ugly imported spruces and conifers, that don't fit in with the environment.
What amazes me is the absolute phobia many people seem to have about trees. Any tree is always too big, too close to something, too high, too low, too wide, too narrow, too far away, too old, too young, or just guilty of some crime such as dropping its leaves on the ground, of all places. Why do people hate trees and perceive them as somehow a threat? I find this inexplicable.
Destroying trees is one of the commonest forms of vandalism carried out by people who rent houses. I know many cases of people who let their homes and returned to find beautiful blossoming, fruit trees cut down or uprooted.
I once lived in a house with an ornamental cherry tree in the front garden. Actually it was one of the attractions of the house that drew me to it. When not flowering it had the most wonderful, deep maroon foliage. But a neighbour never stopped complaining that it cut out the light from the front of the house.
In the last month, Oxford City Council has felled at least a dozen fine, flourishing native trees from the city centre, leaving the area around the Westgate Centre denuded and stark. They have been sending out the chainsaw gangs at night to avoid attracting attention or protest.
Then they claim they have got a "green" agenda. Like hell.