Luci Ryan: A hidden battle against HS2 to preserve five ancient woodlands

Mar 31 2020

Luci Ryan from the Woodland Trust talks to David Oakes about recent developments with the HS2 rail-link.

David Oakes

David Oakes


Luci Ryan


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About this episode:

David, speaking here as an Ambassador for the Woodland Trust, is joined in conversation by Luci Ryan, an ecologist and Lead Policy Advocate for conservation on behalf of the Woodland Trust. HS2 ltd – the company behind the Government’s highspeed rail project – is quietly about to start moving the soil from five ancient woodlands. The move goes against both conservation principles and guidance from Natural England. With this in mind, David talks to Luci about the complex communities found in ancient woodlands, how this project seems to be going ahead despite the ongoing pandemic and associated government advice, and how this is a time to preserve our unique British habitats, not destroy them.

David's thoughts:

I’ve long been outspoken about HS2, for two reasons. Firstly, I think the financial investment would be far better spent elsewhere. Secondly, it decimates irreplaceable habitats. I even wrote an article about it in the Sunday Times – it had a sickeningly wonderful pun in the title which I’m ashamed to say had nothing to do with me. Continuing a theme, I make no apology for using this podcast platform to push something that particularly vexes me – but we’ll be back to usual episodes from my next release, I promise.

The five ancient woodlands in question are Broadwells Wood, Birches Wood, Crackley Wood, and Ashow Road, all in Warwickshire, and Fulfen Wood in Staffordshire. The work will take around eight weeks, and it is starting now. Here’s an activist, Dr Larch Maxey, in Crackley Wood making his stand in a way I only recently finished reading the likes of in Richard Powers’ “Overstory”.

The sad truth is, we may well be too late to save these woods. But the manner in which HS2 ltd is going back on their promise to translocate these woodlands during their dormant season, and the way HS2 are forging on with works during the COVID-19 crisis, just makes me extremely angry. As discussed in my bonus episode of last week with Ed Davey, now is a time to work together, to act responsibly and to listen to each other, not to bury bad deeds in a terrifyingly full global newscycle.

In the interests of clarity, I did reach out to HS2 to ask them their side of the story. As it stood, 2 days ago, my query “…has been referred to the Public Affairs Team who will endeavour to respond within 20 working days, or sooner, where this is possible”. How many trees could you chop down in 20 days even with the smallest chopper and the most amateur of swings? Also, should it need saying, these are my views, not those of the Woodland Trust.

P.S. If you’re curious about my salmon comment in the introduction to this bonus episode, then you’ve obviously not studied this fascinating graph from the 1970s:


Woodland Trust –

Magic Maps –

The Woodland Trust official press release concerning these events –

Chris Packham “Rethink HS2”  –


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