Save Our Street Trees
Alice Whitehead, founder of Save Our Street Trees, explains more about the work her community group does to protect and plant urban trees in Northampton – and how you can get involved
The Save our Street Trees campaign started with one tree. A beautiful flowering cherry on Penrhyn Road in Far Cotton. My son and I called it the Candy Floss tree because of its clouds of fluffy pink blossom in spring. We passed this tree on the school run every day (we also had a raspberry ripple tree!) – but in 2016, we noticed our tree wasn’t doing so well. The branches were becoming tangled, and the canopy overgrown due to lack of maintenance. Then other trees in our street, and surrounding streets, began to disappear – never to be replaced. Where once there were trees – there were now just empty muddy tree pits. Later, when Save Our Street Trees commissioned Northampton University to do the first ever tree survey of our local district, we discovered 58% of street trees had been felled and not replaced in the last 50 years. It was easy to extrapolate this could be the case in the rest of Northampton.
In early 2016, we began to write letters to councillors and MPs, asking them to do more to protect, maintain and replace the street trees. We tentatively created a Facebook page to publicise what we were doing and get support. And Save Our Street Trees was born! The focus of our community group continues to be to promote, protect and plant trees on Northampton’s urban streets and highways. But we also support any tree project in the urban environment, be that in an orchard, park or school.
We’ve come a long way since 2016. We’re now a constituted community group and Tree Charter branch – supporting its pledges to make “trees accessible for all”. We’ve organised school schemes, created art projects and tree trails. And we’ve planted more than 400 trees! We continue to work with Northampton’s unitary authorities and parish councils to do more to protect and replant lost trees. But we couldn’t do the work we do without the fantastic support of Northampton residents. We now have a team of Tree Guardians across Northamptonshire that help us fundraise, map trees and water newly planted trees.
Find out more about us by clicking here.
The Toads of St Crispin's
Fire, droughts, groundworks, new builds, being flattened - one of the largest communities of toads in Northamptonshire has been facing a real threat of extinction. Until local people stepped in!
For many years an important population of toads had been migrating back to breed at a large reservoir on the former site of an old pioneering psychiatric hospital at St Crispin’s (formerly known as Berrywood) in Northampton – with a nearby wood providing the perfect habitat for hibernation and foraging. But soon after the hospital was closed in 1995, its extensive grounds were sold for housing and the toads’ reservoir was filled in. A fire in the main house followed and, despite the toads’ finding an area of water elsewhere on the site, they were still having to navigate a busy road with kerbs and drains to get there with many not surviving the journey. Now however, after the intervention of local residents including David Baker, a CPRE volunteer, and Anissa Beale, together with the UK amphibian charity Froglife, the toads have been reprieved and now have a new home.
Working closely with both the local community and the council, David and Anissa approached Froglife to develop an impact assessment and site proposal for the creation of a new breeding site for the toads within their existing hibernation area of Berrywood woods. A suitable site was found and a 15m x10m pond dug – of sufficient size to support this toad population - and it was finally completed in February 2020, just before lockdown and the traditional toad migration/breeding season. However, not quite ‘out of the woods’ yet, with water levels needing to rise naturally to suitable levels, some toads, finding the new pond to their liking, had already laid spawn in these dangerously low levels. David, Anissa and some of the other toad patrollers stepped in to rescue the new toadspawn from drying out and hand reared a large number of the toadlets at home before releasing them back near the site in batches in the summer of 2020.
The toads’ subsequent breeding season in spring this year has been successful and a large number of toadlets (as well as newts and diving beetles) has recently been recorded in the pond, with the toads due to make their way from the pond into the surrounding woods over the coming few months. David, Anissa, local volunteers and Froglife are now due to complete the project over the summer with the planting of a native mix of vegetation around the pond perimeter, the building of hibernacula and training on amphibian ID.
This has been a fantastic collaborative project that has succeeded in its aim to save the Toads of St Crispin’s with the creation of a new breeding pond and enhanced terrestrial habitat. It has highlighted how community action, in partnership with local councils (in this case Northampton Borough Council) and charities (Froglife), can result in real progress on the ground and the safeguarding of important natural habitats and wildlife. We hope that this project will generate interest in the importance of the wildlife right on our doorstep and that it will encourage people – young and old - to get involved in wildlife conservation.
Hunsbury Park children at Acre orchard planting (c) Kirsty Edmonds
Delapre Primary children planting whips (c) Kirsty Edmonds
Delapre Primary Reception children watering new trees (c) Kirsty Edmonds