Tuesday 18 August 2020

Walking in the Wild West End Pt. 2 #TelegraphWoods #Conservation #Biodiversity #StopMoorhillDevelopment #CPRE #RichardStBarbeBaker #EnvironmentCentre

I was walking in the Telegraph Woods some weeks ago when I encountered a young man called Michael (early-mid twenties), exercising a German Shepherd puppy, my father having owned a long-lived German Shepherd, much beloved by the family, called "Jugo" (father also trained retrievers -at which he was occasionally successful-, in their traditional role as "gun-dogs" which he used on one of the shoots in Brecon -of which he was a senior and active member until illness forced him to curtail such activities-, #GWRHalesRIP), I struck up a conversation concerning the breed (incl. talking about the suffering inflicted as a result of inbreeding -as is common to many so called "pure-bred" canines-), eventually the conversation changed to one concerning the local environment and its ecology, during which my young interlocutor raised the hideous (to me), spectre of the possible development of the neighbouring "Moorhill" site (the possibility of which I was all too aware of).

Moorhill Hse. site on the left as one travels south on the A27 along the Eastleigh/Southampton boundary.

View between gate and fence (nb. tree-house on the right), to the back of the property shown in later pictures (through/over the fence),  as the southern boundary of the Telegraph Woods.

Southern entrance to the Moorhill Hse. site (nb. both entrances face west).

Michael claimed he had either seen or heard of plans to turn the Moorhill site into a car-park, I can't think of a worse, or less appropriate, fate for it, quote; "There is a footpath through Telegraph Woods which starts to the south of the radio transmitter mast and skirts the two reservoirs (OS Colour Raster, 2012). The trees in this part of the woods are a mixture of Douglas fir, Scots pine, sweet chestnut, sycamore, oak, beech, birch and several yew trees. Of note is a line of mature beech trees which could have marked the boundary of Moorhill House on the northern side and a fine wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) and Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) in what would have been the grounds of the house. Two mature holm oaks (Quercus ilex), which may have flanked the upper entrance, stand on Moorhill Road. Otherwise there is little evidence of the original house or gardens. In 2009 there was a very bad fire at the new Moorhill House causing considerable damage.



The original mid-19th century Moorhill House sited with fine views over surrounding countryside, was demolished in 1960 and a reservoir built on its site. The adjoining Fir Tree Cottage renamed Moorhill House badly damaged by fire in 2009. Site has many specimen trees remaining*." Go to: http://research.hgt.org.uk/item/moorhill-house/

*Italics/underline mine. Strictly speaking one should refer to the site as the "Fir Tree Cottage" site but as access is still through the original Moorhill site gateways (the northern of which still bears the "Moorhill" name). I will continue to refer to the area as the "Moorhill (Hse.), site".

The reservoir built on the original Moorhill Hse. site can be seen to the left of the gateway, the fence protecting which runs for the most part (except here where the gate faces east), along the southern boundary of the Telegraph Woods. To the east (behind the viewer), a somewhat dilapidated (and in some cases completely absent), wooden fence marks the boundary of the Telegraph Woods and the Moorhill site (see below).

Views through fence of parts of the eastern area of the Moorhill site... (follows), ..

The fence visible here marks the eastern boundary of the Moorhill site.

Serendipitously I met another young (in this case somewhat "proto-"), environmentalist called "T.J" today (17/08/2020), who was doing some digital photography as part of a Solent University course in design (studying colour palates), and I told him of the plans to develop the Moorhill site as we stood in more or less the same spot where many of the photographs published here were taken. Very interestingly he told me that it was his understanding that there had been some kind of familial dispute over the rights to the land and that consequently the property had been somewhat neglected for a number of years. I remarked to T.J that this ought to be grist-to-the-mill with regard to conserving the site as one of the best arguments for preventing it being inappropriately developed is to point out that the biodiversity of the area has been established and that reducing it now would be a crime against the local environment.

If one turns to face away from the boundary of the two sites, just in front of the damaged fence, and walks  along what would appear to be the avenue/driveway to the original Moorhill Manor (quote; "original 19th-century Moorhill House, a once fine manor that stood on a 4 acre estate with views in all directions. That was empty by the 1950s, and demolished in 1960 to make way for the two covered reservoirs that now lie here" go to: https://southamptonorbital.wordpress.com/tag/harefield/ 
), between the two rows of trees, which are really two woodland boundaries, and paces out as straight a path as the shrubs and bushes will allow one will discover that the gap between the proposed development and the "Boundary Lakes Golf Course" to the north is only (approx.), 100-120m at this point, the width of this avenue being at most only (approx.), 25m.

The following are views facing (approx.), north...

It was in this area (to the far left of this picture), that I surprised three European Green Woodpeckers which were sitting on the footpath one late-morning, they took to the wing and flew into the woodland opposite them (to the far right of this picture).

This is the Boundary Lakes Golf Course boundary.

If one includes the area of meadow recently sacrificed for parking on the other side of the B3035 from the Ageas Bowl and the controversial Hatch Farm development (go to: https://www.arafel.co.uk/2018/02/hatchfarm-heathland-west-end-village.html, https://www.arafel.co.uk/2018/02/greenfield-site-development-in-britain.html, https://www.arafel.co.uk/2019/12/journey-man-walkinginthewildwestend.html
),  the developers have taken a huge bite out of greenfield locations in the area already (and the coffers of Eastleigh Borough Council have been swollen). Isn't it time they gave something back? I propose that the Moorfield site should be developed (and that only in part, on the western half of the land -nearest the existing entrances-), by the construction of an environment centre, that this be done sensitively using sustainable materials and include sustainable heat and power systems (mainly solar but a small windmill could also be considered), this especially so given the exposed position which is ideal for the maximum efficiency of such. The area where nature has now established a toe-hold should be left as undisturbed as possible.

Views south up-the-hill facing the boundary with the Moorhill site...

This shot of the two paths being taken facing directly away from (and within 15m or so of), the boundary fence with the golf-course.

This whole area is also a great place to see dragonflies, butterflies and many other kinds of flying insect. There is in fact a "mere" in the Telegraph Woods where I saw a truly spectacular display of mature dragonflies only yesterday (17/08/2020), I have some pictures of the nymphaea water lilies waiting to be developed but I don't own a high speed camera so I'm sorry but I have no photographs of the dragonflies to show you, I have, however, never seen such a spectacular display or so many of the various dragonfly species in one small area! I very much fear that such wondrous biodiversity as exemplified by my siting of the three woodpeckers and the "cluster" (some say a "dazzle" which if true is great), of dragonflies would be terribly damaged (some of it beyond repair), if inappropriate development of the Moorhill site were allowed to proceed.

The blog post of August 2017 I quoted earlier is worthy of closer examination re: the entire area (esp. see the pictures of the remains of Fir Tree Cottage et.al), quote: "The blue van is still in the layby at Telegraph Woods on the north side of the A27 at West End, where the third leg of the walk started with a bit of a run for the dog. A little bit of exploring – at least around the top end of the wood, closest to the road. Not quite in as far as the Iron Age ‘fort’ that is here somewhere, but leastways round the corner to the ‘Armada beacon’

The beacon (a circular pit) is one of only a handful that survive nationally dating from at least 1595, situated on flat land at the highest point of a ‘gravel plateau’ known as Moorhill or Telegraph Hill, overlooking lower lying land to the west, north and east. The woods are known as ‘telegraph’ woods after the Napoleanic ‘Shutter telegraph’* that once stood here – part of a line of similar between London and Plymouth but nothing remains of that now, except the high ground.

Nothing much remains of ‘Moorhill’ either – the large house that once stood at the highest point on the road enjoying spectacular views to the north.
You can’t really see much of that either, thanks to the new development at the Rose Bowl (sorry, I really hate sponsorship names that I am not paid to say). Instead, this is the view over the new golf course, looking north over the cricket ground towards the South Downs in the very distance. Ah, the delights of corporate inhospitality. Good luck seeing over the fencing…*
*" Go to: https://southamptonorbital.wordpress.com/tag/harefield/

*Quote; "Shutter telegraph machines were vertical wooden frames with 6 shutters within them, designed by the Reverend Lord George Murray. To make a signal, the shutters were opened and closed in order to spell out different letters. This was a new means of fast communication in the 1790s and meant that the Royal Navy could now send any message between important ports and the capital.
The Portsmouth Shutter Telegraph line was built 222 years ago in March 1796. It established a line of communication between the Admiralty building in London and Portsmouth. The message was passed through several telegraph stations including Putney, Chessington, Haslemere, Bedhampton, and ended next to the King’s Bastion, Portsmouth. Workers at the stations would watch through telescopes and take down the message, then pass it on by pulling ropes attached to the back of the shutters to spell it out. This line could send important messages from the Royal Naval base in Portsmouth to London in 7.5 minutes, far quicker than any other method of communication at the time. The next fastest method was to carry a message by horse, which would take at least 4.5 hours. One telegraph station’s journal even notes that a message was sent from London to Portsmouth in one minute.
The signal system was, however, very dependent on the weather. Poor visibility could slow down messages considerably. The stations could also only operate in the daylight." Go to: https://www.nmrn.org.uk/news-events/nmrn-blog/murray-shutters

**Italics mine.

Should the inappropriate development of the Moorhill site go ahead the Telegraph Woods will (at this point), have been squeezed to a size hardly more than the shortest of Olympic sprint distances and one will be able see parked cars at one end and the golf-course at the other, both our social and environmental heritage deserve better.
 It may well be appropriate to approach Queens College Oxford with regard to these matters, quote;
"The site of Telegraph Woods is leased from Queen’s College, Oxford, but maintained by Eastleigh Borough Council. Within its 19 hectares can be seen remains of an Iron Age hill-fort, as well as remains of an Armada beacon." Go to: https://so18biglocal.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/HF01_Harefield-to-Telegraph_Woods.pdf

It ought to be clear, to any reasonable reader, by now that the Telegraph Woods form part of a local environment that is steeped in history, only a mile or two to the north there are/were a number of Bronze Age barrows (at least one of which still remains fully intact situated within a modern housing estate), ..

quote; "A series of round barrows, dating from the Bronze Age (2000-600 BC), have been discovered in the Moorgreen area of the parish. There were five of these to the north of the former Moorgreen Hospital site.[2] A hilltop fort from the Iron Age was built on the ridge above the village around 600-100BC.[3] A shutter telegraph station operated from the site during the Napoleonic Wars, forming part of the line connecting London to Plymouth.[3] It was this station that gave the name to the nearby Telegraph Woods.[4]
The village was originally a hamlet which grew up around a track between Romsey and Portsmouth.[3] The hamlet had a chapel by 1552 primarily for the use of the lords of the manor of Allington.[3] When the track became a turnpike road in the early 19th century, the hamlet began to grow.[3]"
Environment Centre

The Telegraph Woods and Moorhill site sit directly opposite the housing estate of Harefield (an area originally part of the West End Parish, quote;
"Harefield House was a country house of Elizabethan style built in 1834 for Sir Edward Butler, chairman of the Southampton and Salisbury Railway Company, in what are now the grounds of Harefield Infant and Junior Schools on Yeovil Chase. Edwin Jones, the Southampton draper whose store ultimately became part of Debenhams bought the house in 1887. Harefield House is often mistakenly reported as burning down in 1915, this misconception is printed in the book Memories of Bitterne by Irene Pilson and seems to have stuck. The house actually burnt down on May 6, 1917 as seen in the article GREAT FIRE IN WESTEND.[2] The Jones family sold the estate in 1917 and there was some building in the 1920s but it was not developed in earnest until after the Second World War.
The area was part of the civil parish of West End when it was established in 1894, but was transferred into Southampton in 1954.[3]
), and close to Woodlands Junior School; the Parish of West End itself has also received a huge boost in inhabitants during the last few years as a result of both the Moorgreen and Hatch Farm developments, with around 150 new homes being built, it would therefore be churlish of anyone to suggest that an establishment that aimed to educate both adults and children concerning the ecology of both their local and global environment would not be properly utilised.
 I have twice been a volunteer at the Millbrook School/City Farm (once before and once after the amalgamation into the "Down to Earth Environment Centre"), which is on the other side of Southampton City (to the west), from the Telegraph Woods/Moorhill site and have found the following to be true, quote; 

"Furthermore we have found that the farm often brings out a side to young people rarely seen in the class room, offering opportunities for team work, leadership, problem solving, social development and self awareness." (http://www.downtoearthfarm.org/educational-days.html
). Down to Earth has been an extremely successful (and prize winning), venture combining organic agricultural practices and sustainable energy systems with a grounded community friendly ethos.
  It would be a breath of fresh air if West End Village could begin again to honour the memory of (probably), its most famous son Richard St Barbe Baker, quote; "The memorial to Richard St.Barbe Baker marks the completion of a programme of environmental improvements that has been undertaken in West End's High Street. Totalling £180,000 the project has been funded by the Borough Council with the support of the Hedge End, West End and Botley Local Area Committee*. The improvements have been undertaken in partnership with Vail Williams and include upgraded pavements, safety railings, better lighting plus the removal of graffiti and damaged planters. The scheme has also seen the introduction of a local CCTV system managed by S & P Southampton Ltd.

The bronze bas-relief of Richard St.Barbe Baker was made by sculptor Jill Tweed. The bronze was cast by Burleighfield Arts Ltd, High Wycombe and the Portland Stone column and granite top were supplied by Vokes and Becks of Winchester. This is Jill Tweed's third work in the Borough. Her first, completed in 1995, was "The Railwayman" statue - a prominent sculpture in Eastleigh's Leigh Road shopping precinct. Her second, completed in 2001, was the bronze "Angel of Mons" on the town's War Memorial.

            Richard St.Barbe Baker,OBE was born on the 9th October 1889 in West End. He was a forestry adviser and silviculturist and Founder of the Men of the Trees in 1922. This organisation is now known as the International Tree Foundation.

            He became Assistant Conservator of Forests in Kenya and Nigeria in the 1920's and was concerned for the rapidly decreasing fertility of the land. He believed it was necessary to plant more trees to combat the shifting methods of agriculture and he initiated the idea of voluntary tree planting by native tribesmen. He founded the society, The Men of the Trees, in Kenya in 1922.

            For the remainder of his life Barbe Baker travelled extensively around the world, lecturing and writing to convey his message about the importance of trees. Through his determination and energy he influenced the protection of the giant redwoods in California, the replanting of large areas in northern Africa and stimulated a new world-wide direction for forest conservation.

            In 1978 Richard St.Barbe Baker received an OBE for his work. He planted his last tree in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on 5th June 1982 in a ceremony celebrating World Environment Day, and died four days later in his ninety-third year." (https://www.westendlhs.co.uk/home/richard-st-barbe-baker/ also see: https://internationaltreefoundation.org/history/ and http://themanofthetrees.com/treeoflife/)

  *Italics mine.

At present the only building that bears St Barbe's name is this one..

St Barbe Baker hall.

..I kid you not!

I therefore call on all who opposed the Hatch Farm Development, were/are concerned about the Moorgreen Development and/or worry about the ever land-hungry Ageas Bowl/Boundary Lakes Golf Course* to lobby their councillors and M.P and liaise with local conservation groups such as the Hampshire branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (https://www.cprehampshire.org.uk/), and/or Friends of the Earth to protect the marvellous natural asset that is the Telegraph Woods/Moorhill site and to promote its development as both an educational and recreational resource.

*As an addenda concerning the somewhat thoughtless and selfish attitude displayed by those behind the Boundary Lakes Golf-Course I feel that I must relate two incidents which occurred to me whilst walking in the Telegraph Woods recently. On the first occasion (some weeks ago), I was walking (north), along the path next to the boundary fence between the woods and the golf-course (in fact I have just turned to walk away from the fence and further into the woods), when I heard a "thwaaakk" from the foliage some 5 metres or so to my right, I then realised with a shock that a driven golf ball had only been prevented from (hopefully), just missing me by the summer tresses of the woodland! Naturally I was incensed. On further examination of the proximity of the fairway to the path it became clear to me that in no-way had the welfare of the users of the woodland been taken into proper consideration during either the planning stage or construction of the course; this fact was underlined to me when walking the same path (having made sure that the golfers using the nearest hole had tee-ed off before I began walking the same stretch), as research for this post weeks later, when I came across a young father and his child in roughly the same place that I had nearly been hit  (in fact somewhat further in to the woodland -I wasn't going to hang around in the "free-fire-zone"-), for just as I came across them the child handed their father a bright orange golf-ball the kid had just found on the ground! What contempt this shows for the welfare of those who don't share one's obsessions or partake of a similar lifestyle! This is not good enough Eastleigh Borough Council, you should be ashamed of yourselves!