HS2: nature pays the price

Felled ash by HS2 at Calvert Jubilee by Pete Bray

High Speed 2 Ltd are to begin clearance works at our Calvert Jubilee nature reserve, resulting in the heart-breaking destruction of a precious place.

On Tuesday 28 July HS2 will take legal possession of a large part of Calvert Jubilee and begin clearance works. They will destroy an area on the eastern side of the reserve to make space for the railway. This area is home to the rare black and brown hairstreak butterflies, as well as flower-rich grassland, and important scrub habitats supporting breeding warblers.

BBOWT and The Wildlife Trusts are calling on the Government to Stop and Rethink HS2  to prevent irreversible damage to Calvert Jubilee and to nature and wild places along the route.

Calvert Jubilee is one of the jewels in the crown of our nature reserves - a peaceful lakeside sprinkled with wild flowers and a quiet haven for wildlife and people, home to rare birds such as bittern, breeding tern, and some of our rarest butterflies.

Black hairstreak by Roy Macdonald/Lakes4Life

Black hairstreak by Roy Macdonald/Lakes4Life

What will the damage be?

Initially HS2 will be clearing vegetation to erect fencing across part of the reserve. This will only be the first step towards razing part of the reserve to the ground.

Over the last 50 years, the reserve has become a haven for large numbers of overwintering waterfowl and waders. Birds like blackcap nest in the trees and scrub, and the reeds in the shallower parts of the lake play host to the magnificent bittern. The site is renowned as a home to all five species of UK hairstreak butterfly. 

This fabulous matrix of habitats is a direct result of the hard work and passion of the people who have made Calvert Jubilee a real gem for wildlife. We are devastated that an area of this beautiful place will be lost to HS2 and much of what remains of the reserve will be overshadowed by the huge infrastructure project. 

We have refused HS2 and its contractors access to Calvert Jubilee at every opportunity and we continue to oppose all clearance works, particularly any that are proposed to take place during bird nesting season. But in spite of our best efforts and our vigorous campaigning, an area of this precious nature reserve will be destroyed forever.

Estelle Bailey, BBOWT's Chief Executive said: "It is with great sadness that we have to report that HS2 will take legal possession of a large part of our Calvert Jubilee nature reserve. The planned clearance works will have a devastating effect on wildlife-rich habitats, including areas used by rare hairstreak butterflies. So many precious wildlife sites like Calvert will suffer along the length of the route as HS2 divides and destroys huge swathes of irreplaceable natural habitat. We are urging the Government to Stop and Rethink HS2.”

Mark Vallance, Reserves Manager for Buckinghamshire says: "I grew up a few miles from Calvert Jubilee - my visits there as a young boy set me on the path to my career today. The areas that will be destroyed by HS2 have given me some amazing wildlife experiences over the years, including the incredible sight and sound of the elusive and rare nightingale. 

"I am heartbroken to know that in the coming weeks and months HS2’s chainsaws and diggers will finally roll onto one of our most diverse and beautiful nature reserves, destroying habitats that have been looked after by dedicated people for more than 40 years."

Calvert Jubilee by Pete Bray

Calvert Jubilee by Pete Bray

BBOWT have campaigned against HS2 ever since it was proposed 

Since the proposed route was published in 2010 we have been battling against the Government’s plans for HS2 and the destructive impact the project will have on our wildlife and countryside. BBOWT led the local campaign to speak up for wildlife, challenged the lack of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the project, and continued to make the case for better wildlife protection. 

As a result of BBOWT’s long and strenuous campaign, some significant changes to the route have been made, but a report published in January 2020 by The Wildlife Trusts, What’s the damage? Why HS2 will cost nature too much, shows the huge impact the project will still have on protected wildlife sites, species and landscape restoration projects along the entire route.

Bittern by Jamie Hall

Bittern by Jamie Hall

What next?

Despite our best efforts, in April 2020 - in the midst of the coronavirus crisis - the government announced that Phase 1 of HS2 could proceed. 

However, the fight to protect wildlife is not over. BBOWT will continue to scrutinise the Government’s plans, whilst working to mitigate the inevitable damage HS2 will cause, and saving as many habitats and species as possible

We're calling on our members and supporters to write to their local MP and ask them to urge the government to Stop and Rethink their approach to HS2.

Complaints can be lodged directly with HS2 Ltd on 08081 434 434 or hs2enquiries@hs2.org.uk.

For the latest updates please visit Calvert Jubilee’s web page and read more about HS2, the impacts on wildlife along the route through Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, and what BBOWT is doing to protect wildlife here. 

We will continue working hard to protect and repair precious habitats and campaign for wildlife. If you would like to donate to our ongoing work, you can do so here.