UK: 57 year-old climbs tree to stop needless destruction in Cripley Meadow allotments

A ONE-MAN protest temporarily halted work to cut back trees at a patch
of woodland in Oxford. Mike Hamblett, 57, scaled a willow tree at
Cripley Meadow Allotments, next to Port Meadow, at lunchtime today as
city council workers tackled about 20 trees. The allotment association
said the work was long-overdue maintenance that mainly involved
pollarding – a form of pruning to generate fresh growth – and removing
a small number of trees.

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The association hopes to turn the land into a community orchard. But
Mr Hamblett, who was arrested in 2007 for stopping contractors
painting new parking lines in his street, said the work was not
necessary and the site should be left untouched.

He said: “It is not fair and not right. It’s a haven for wildlife and they have gone too far.” Speaking before he climbed a willow, he said: “I’ve tried every
avenue to contact the council but cannot get hold of a single officer.

“I have been begging the council workers to leave them alone.”
Allotment association chairman Wendy Skinner-Smith said: “This is a
joint operation between us and the park department which is in the
long-term interest of wildlife. “It is pollarding and coppicing which
will actually introduce far more wildlife than before.

“Willows destroy the bank when they fall and we are now putting in place proper measures to look after these trees better than before. We hope this
man’s actions won’t stop what is proper tree work. “The only trees
that will be removed are ones which are damaged or unsuitable for the
situation. We will end up with a much better place than before.”

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Comments (2)

More details...March 20th, 2009 at 1:30 pm

A stand-off over the future of trees near Port Meadow in Oxford is continuing today. The city council has decided not to continue pollarding the willows on land adjacent to Cripley Meadow Allotments today, but refused to rule out carrying out further work at a later date. Protester Mike Hamblett, 57, had scaled one of the trees on Tuesday and Wednesday to stop workers pruning it. He said the area should be left untouched to protect existing wildlife. The council is carrying out the maintenance work for the allotment association, which plans to create a community orchard on the land. It said the area would become even more wildlife-friendly in the future and the pollarding — cutting back of the willows to promote new growth — was needed to stop damage to the riverbank. Mr Hamblett, of Harpes Road, North Oxford, vowed to restart his protest if the council worker come back.

Mike HamblettNovember 23rd, 2009 at 6:35 am

This lovely little area was a treasured wildlife sanctuary. One of the only places free of people and dogs, etc. Most of the allotmenters wanted it left alone. The Council made an undemocratic decision based on one person ideas of planting apple trees and having school kids in. I am still tryingto ensure that precious wildlife does not come second to human beings and that the idea of tidying trees does not become obsessive.

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