A community gathered to mourn after a hedge described as "a good friend and neighbour" was "butchered" to make way for tennis courts.

A vigil was held in Priory Park, Crouch End, on Saturday (February 10) after Haringey Council chopped down the 40m leylandii hedge dividing the old Bowling Green from the West Tennis Courts on January 29.

The work was to make way for floodlights as part of a £446,782 project with the Lawn Tennis Association to refurbish five tennis courts in its parks.

A sign had been put up on January 24 stating that there had been full engagement with Friends of Priory Park, but the group disputed this.

Many describing the "shock and disbelief" at the hedge having disappeared.

Chris Chadwick, a long-term park user, told the group: "A visceral shock hit my body at 11am on Friday, January 26 as the sound of chainsaw and the view of the park revealed that half of the bowling green hedge - some 20m had already disappeared. 

"A good friend and neighbour of 19 years was being butchered because new tennis court floodlights required it. 

"The hedge was a wonderful natural play area - a babysitter for my children who grew up running and hiding inside it."

Ham & High: The hedge (left) before and (right) afterThe hedge (left) before and (right) after (Image: Chris Chadwick/Jane Leggett)

Chrissy Kelly, who organised the vigil, said: "Let’s start being more in tune with nature and play tennis till the light fades."

The council has agreed to replant the hedge with a native hedge and hand over its maintenance to the Friends of Priory Park (FOPP).

But Jane Leggett, Haringey resident, said she hoped it would be leylandii.

"In urban settings, leylandii hedges are perfect for reducing air pollution, wind, and noise," she added.

She pointed to a study by researcher Gail Taylor from the Universities of Southampton and Sussex, who said leylandii can improve air quality by 40 per cent, as its complex foliage is better at trapping particulate pollutants than deciduous species.

Jane said smaller birds are protected by leylandii’s dense foliage, insects hibernate in them and greenfinches nest in them. 

Ham & High: The hedge in Priory Park destroyed to make way for tennis court improvements including floodlightsThe hedge in Priory Park destroyed to make way for tennis court improvements including floodlights (Image: Chris Chadwick)

Lucy Bland from Haringey Tree Protectors drew attention to biodiversity loss locally and nationally, while consequences of the climate and ecological emergency are increasing.

She said: "It will take years and years to replace the benefits of mature trees and hedges. We will feel the effects of their loss before those newly planted come to maturity.

"In the long hot summer to come, many will miss the shade this hedge gave us."

Cllr Emily Arkell, Haringey's cabinet member for culture, communities and leisure, previously told the Ham&High that the council undertook the work to improve accessibility to the tennis courts to "complement" their refurbishment.

She said the council will planting 12 new trees in the park and the friends group would help choose the location and species.