Archway Cuttings

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From Sue Lees

Nicola Cheetham, Head of Environment at Transport for London, and John Parker, of TfL’s Arboriculture and Landscape division, were able to find or make the time to meet  Sue Lees and Richard Meyers, of the Islington Wildlife Gardeners’ Group,  on Tuesday 31st May (2011) to look at the Archway Cuttings. Representatives of Better Archway Forum, the Highgate Society, and WHPARA made the party up to eight.

The Archway Cuttings are the precipitous triangles of woodland which splay out from the four corners of the bridge, and help to hold it up. Three of the Cuttings are largely  neglected, but the Islington Wildlife Gardeners, aided by stalwart efforts from Alan Perry of the BAF, and other local residents, and staff from the Islington Ecology Centre and Greenspace, over many years have cleared the disgraceful quantity of rubbish and planted native saplings, bulbs, and other wildlife-enhancing plants, in order to develop the South East Cuttings, WHPARA’s nearest and therefore dearest, into a reservoir for our local biodiversity.

The south west section, which partly belongs to St. Aloysius, is fairly waterlogged and doubtless there are watercourses nudging away beneath its surface. The steps from the school down to the Archway Road resemble a communal refuse tip.

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The ownership of the Cuttings generally rests with TfL, but the junk on them is up for grabs. It is not just a matter of wind blown litter - some of the bicycle wheels and estate agents’ boards have been chucked over the fence, but in one spot a pallet of bricks has been carefully stacked, either for handy storage or by way of fly-tipping.

It was generally agreed that a management plan for the Cuttings was desirable. TfL have defined responsibilities, but are keen to go for native planting within their budgetary constraints, and have been encouraged into a rubbish-clearing blitz which we will be delighted to see when it happens. Getting into a dialogue with TfL and with its enthusiastic (newish) Route Manager John Parker gives grounds for optimism that our Cuttings may become much more attractive for passers-by and for wildlife.

SL 18/6/11


Sue Lees writes:

“After writing the piece several months ago, and getting agreement from Transport for London, I have finally discovered that my effusion about the Archway Cuttings South East is up on the RSPB Saving Special Places page on their website”. You may view the article here.


Sue Lees had a crack at the cuttings (east side of the bridge and south of it) this morning, with Josephine Murray, Sylvia Chambers and Sue Jandy, cutting back some of the jungle and encouraging the wild garlic and other plants, some of which encourage the butterflies, and shifting some of the rubbish that comes over the fence. It’s the nearest thing we have to “natural” woodland, even if it’s out of area. Luckily the weather was accommodating. She sent these photos: