Monday, 16 July 2012

The National Trust: Guardians or Vandals?

At the second Public Meeting in May the National Trust stated their aims for the Petersham Meadows

• To protect, conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the meadows

• To increase the public enjoyment of the meadows and encourage access to them

• To continue to graze cattle on the meadows

They also pledged to keep the local community informed and set up a website with this specific aim:
In less than a year weeds have taken over the Petersham Meadows

What has happened in the last seven weeks? Yes, the cows are still here but continue to be segregated from the local community by the disfiguring electric fence. The fence has been moved twice resulting in ugly clear cut strips and an unsightly patchwork to the once beautiful view from Richmond Hill.

 Ugly clear cut strips and an unsightly patchwork

The National Trust seems confused as to the history of Petersham Meadows. What the National Trust call biodiversity is simply uncontrolled weeds. Spotted Medick (Medicago arabica) has taken hold of the eastern section of the Meadows and Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) a plant containing toxins which are debilitating or fatal to grazing animals if eaten has re-appeared after the previous management eradicated it. The Ragwort Control Act 2003 imposes a duty of responsibility on landowners to effectively control Ragwort and prevent it from spreading onto grazing land. The local National Trust manager has recently asserted that Petersham Meadows, formerly called Cow Field, looked like this in the past when it was a hay meadow. A little art history reminds us that it was not Claude Monet who painted the view from Richmond Hill but Turner (1819), Knyff (1720), etc. showing cows and not haystacks.
Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea)

 Large thistles dot the meadow

 Spotted Medick (Medicago arabica) has already set seed

The last remaining milking parlour in Greater London had a section of lead stolen this winter. We have just experienced the wettest spring on record and the roof remains unrepaired with water continuing to undermine the timber roof sections.
Damaged Milking Parlour Roof

Additional signs now grace the entry points further defacing the Meadows. The information is obscured either because they are poorly positioned or covered by vegetation. 

Signs at the entry to the Petersham Meadows

 Sign obscured by leaves

Access to Petersham Meadows continues to be restricted by the electric fence which also blocks the ancient footpath from River Lane to Buccleuch Gardens. Tall vegetation has further deterred the number of visitors from enjoying the Meadows unlike previous years. Dogs off the lead are however hidden from the eyes of the herdsman or volunteers by the height of the grasses.

Ancient footpath from River Lane to Buccleuch Gardens
blocked by the electric fence
The new National Trust blog for Petersham Meadows is still devoid of any entries which is understandable as good news is a little thin on the ground. The Olympic torch will pass the Meadows twice next week; Firstly, along Petersham Road and then down the Thames. This will be followed by two days of Olympic cycling bringing the spotlight of the world to this world famous view as the competitors sprint along the eastern boundary. 

Mark Cavendish cycling along the Petersham Road and the view eleven months later

 Weeds dominate the boundary fence with the Petersham Road

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