HS2 haulage road could devastate Hillingdon wildlife

Frays Farm Meadows in Hillingdon lies within the Colne Valley © Mathew Frith

Experts have repeated warnings that a proposed HS2 haulage road that would slice through Hillingdon’s Frays Farm Meadows and Uxbridge Golf Course could devastate local wildlife.

Mathew Frith of London Wildlife Trust, who presented evidence at the House of Commons HS2 Select Committee in January, commented: “The importance of Frays Farm Meadows for wild species, such as endangered water vole, cannot be overstated. The Meadows are nationally important and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, one of only 37 in the entire Greater London region.”

“Water vole are now believed to be extinct in nearby Surrey, but they are able to thrive in Frays Farm Meadows because of the relatively undisturbed habitat and the many years of work that London Wildlife Trust and local volunteers have put in to protect the Meadows.”

HS2 had planned to route the new haulage road along the north east boundary of Frays Farm Meadows and into Uxbridge Golf Course, but the HS2 Select Committee also heard proposals to re-route the road along a disused railway line that cuts right through the middle of the Meadows and along the boundary of Denham Lock Wood, another Site of Special Scientific Interest managed by the Trust.

The Trust warns that such a route would have far more impact than the already damaging north eastern option, cutting the Meadows in half and destroying what is probably the largest remaining sedge fen in London; a rare wet grazing meadow that is home to water vole as well as snipe and slow-worm.

Slow-worms and glow-worms

The old railway line also supports large populations of glow-worm, curious beetle larvae that emit a greeny-orange light on summer nights. The Trust leads guided walks to view the glow-worms and recently started work on improving the railway embankment habitat for the beetles and their larvae. Since the 1950s, there has been evidence suggesting a decline in glow-worm populations, not just in Britain, but in the whole of Europe.

Frith added: “We fully understand that local residents don’t want a busy haulage road impacting on their lives and properties and we support their objections to HS2; but it is vitally important that we do not lose Frays Farm Meadows and Denham Lock Wood to HS2. The Meadows aren’t some sort of valueless wasteland; they are an irreplaceable remnant of a landscape that dates back to medieval times, providing us with fresh air; helping to alleviate flooding by soaking up excess rainwater, and sustaining a wonderful array of wildlife.”

“I would urge anyone who lives locally to pull on a pair of boots and take a leisurely stroll through Frays Farm Meadows and Denham Lock Wood. These precious reserves fully deserve our protection and we will do our utmost to ensure that HS2 does not destroy them.”

Frays Farm Meadows is free to visit and is open at all times. Find out more here