The Highgate Wood, Conservation and Trees Manager introduced the report on the review of the Annual Work Plan 2013 and the proposed Annual Work Plan 2014. In reviewing the work undertaken during 2013 he highlighted in particular the impact of storm damage on staff time and resources; efficiency savings in terms of fuel and staff-time provided by a new Claas baler; watering and rolling work undertaken to consolidate pathways; and the success of a corporate volunteer event held in May 2013.
In response to a question from John Hunt regarding the export of oak saplings to Northern Ireland, the Trees Manager replied that the optimal size at which a sapling was dug up for removal was based upon experience, and that it tended to be around knee height. He explained that a sapling taller than that would have larger roots and would therefore leave a larger hole once the sapling had been removed.
In response to a further question from John Hunt, the Superintendent confirmed that staff were willing, in principle, to create alternative paths upon the Heath.
In response to a question from Colin Gregory, the Trees Manager replied that monitoring of tree disease continued despite the need to deal with storm damage arising from the St Jude's Day Storm and the inclement weather over the Christmas and New Year period. He confirmed that Oak Processionary Moth had not been detected and London-wide monitoring indicated that it was now moving in a south-westerly direction away from the capital. Moreover, Massaria continued to be actively managed and had now been incorporated into risk management plans. The Trees Manager noted that a Practical Management Guide on Massaria Disease of Plane Trees had recently been released by the London Tree Officers Association. He added that the disease appeared to be triggered by dry periods that put the trees under particular stress. He went on to note that Ash Dieback had not been detected, and remained outside of the M25. Nevertheless he noted a non-virulent strain had been detected near the One o’Clock Club.
The Director of Open Spaces noted that she was the Chair of the Oak Processionary Moth Advisory Group to the Forestry Commission and had attended a meeting that day with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs at which it had been noted that Oak Processionary Moth nests were down by 50%, largely due to the spraying work undertaken in London using DEFRA-funding. It was hoped that further funding could be secured to maintain progress.
Jeremy Wright took the opportunity to welcome the work that had been done to create barriers across badly-compacted paths, and that he would like these carefully managed to avoid scrub. He welcomed the level of detail provided by the Area Management Plans.
In response to a query from John Hunt, the Hampstead Heath Ecologist replied that dung beetles had not been detected upon the Heath, despite efforts by staff to find them.
In response to concerns raised by Ian Harrison, the Superintendent replied that instances of graffiti at the Hill Garden were indeed on the increase and that it was affecting the Portland stone in particular. He noted that the Hampstead Heath Constabulary were looking into the issue.
In response to a request from Michael Hammerson, the Committee Clerk agreed to look into providing members with individual pdf files of Committee Reports so that they may be easily shared with society memberships.
Helen Payne and Ian Hammerson commented that the works undertaken on Whitestone Pond had improved the appearance of the pond immeasurably.
In response to concerns raised by Susan Rose over building contractors leaving corrugated iron at a site on the Heath, the Hampstead Heath Ecologist confirmed that the contractors had already been contacted regarding the issue and that the material would be removed shortly.
In response to comments from members, the Trees Manager replied that ditch clearance had to be undertaken very carefully given that ditches were an important habitat and there was always a risk they could be ‘over-cleared’.
Officers agreed to consider the suggestion by Colin Gregory that the website feature interactive maps of the Heath, upon which users, for example, could click on areas of the Heath and see what works were planned and/or undertaken.