Queen’s Wood trees protesters’ month on guard duty
PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 August 2020
Protestors in Queen’s Wood have been camping for nearly a month now to prevent the felling of four oak trees caught in a dispute between Haringey Council and insurance company Axa.
The trees, which have stood for at least a century, according to Jeff Ducket, emeritus professor of botany at Queen Mary university, are damaging a property on the edge of the wood.
Haringey Council says it does not want to cut the trees down, but that the only other option is to pay at least £270,000 to the homeowner’s insurance company, Axa, for further underpinning - something it cannot afford after funding cuts and a potential £70m cost of the pandemic.
The protestors have a kitchen, library, tents and a hammock and have a flexible rota system where people spend anything between two and 20 hours a week, keeping a constant vigil of at least two people 24 hours a day.
Claire Sive, a company director and community volunteer, said: “I walk every single day in the woods. I actually have a condition called fibromyalgia and the only decent treatment for it is constant exercise. I can’t tell you what lovely people I’ve met there.”
James, who preferred to give only his first name, said: “I work four hours a week, I have no furlough, no money, but it doesn’t cost to sit here. I look after the woods and the trees. People have put so much effort in that I can’t now leave and let the trees fall down.”
At 29, Moses had never been to a protest before he found the camp by chance on a nostalgic visit from his home in Hackney.
“I was 13 when I first came here. After 16 years, I returned and thought ‘wow trees, no pollution’. James found me on the other side of the woods and I’ve been here ever since. I’m from the city, I’ve reconnected with nature and it’s brilliant.”
While there are around 30 regulars, the camp receives other visitors, such as Singer Phoebe Coco who performed an a capella version of Robert Macfarlane’s poem Heartwood with her mother and two sisters.
“I’m currently involved in protecting trees with songs,” said Phoebe. “In this era of global crisis people need trees more than ever.”
Cllr Kirsten Hearn, Haringey Council’s cabinet member for climate change and sustainability, said: “I do not want these trees to be cut down – they are on ancient woodland that I, and the campaigners, are passionate about protecting.
“We have been left with two choices; we either pay at least £270,000 to the homeowner’s insurance company for further underpinning, or we cut down these four trees.
“It is no secret that councils have endured huge budget cuts over the last decade – and that we have spent millions on supporting the community through the pandemic.
“It is, after all, estimated that the coronavirus outbreak will have a potential £70million financial impact on Haringey Council. We simply cannot afford to pay £270,000.
“We have previously undertaken works to try and remedy this situation. As I have said previously, we are desperate for there to be another way.”
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