I’m a bit disturbed by a little piece in Private Eye this week.
It basically claims that the Sports Turf Research Institute (sounds grand enough, doesn’t it…) who was put in charge of reinstating the grass in Greenwich Park after the Olympic Equestrian events did sow a special mix of seed suitable for acid soil over in the west of the park, but despite being told by Natural England not to water the soil with alkaline mains water (anyone who’s got a kettle round here will know just how alkaline that is…) they proceeded to do so for weeks on end and consequently nothing at all grows there.
The watering was, apparently, approved by Jeremy Hunt who was culture secretary at the time.
PI also claims a ‘surfactant’ (whatever that is) that contains chemicals that killed every living thing to a depth of a metre was also applied. I can’t imagine why they’d do that, but hey, that’s what it says. Traces will apparently hang around for 50 years.
Now, generally, I think that the Park’s come back together pretty nicely – it’s looking utterly gorgeous at the moment. But Private Eye reckons ‘a lot of turf still needs to be reinstated at the foot of the park‘ – I haven’t actually noticed that; I thought it was all done and dusted down the bottom.
But this is about the acid grassland. PI says that ‘campaigner Rachael Mawhood (from NOGOE – TGP) has sent Natural England photos she took last month of the track on which nothing now grows.’
I was shaken by this so, for once – and I’m not known for verifying my facts before I write about things – I decided to take a peek myself.
TBH I couldn’t find anything much wrong at all. The acid grassland looks gloriously golden and Autumnal, speckled with hawthorn and rowans laden with berries, chestnuts laden with – well, chestnuts and a whole bunch of parakeets waiting to pounce on all of them before the humans get there.
I didn’t really see much bare soil at all – though of course I could have missed that particular bit – I’d be keen to see photographic evidence of bare soil. Some of it was a bit scrubby:
What I did see, though, was this:
Trouble is, I can’t remember the exact route the course took. If it was up here, past Knife Edge (which is also looking good just now) then there is an area in amongst the acid grassland that is just bog-standard turf – which would indicate that if it has been watered with ordinary water, the acid-loving plants have died, leaving just ordinary grass.
Can anyone remember if the course actually covered this area, or if the boring grass has just encroached over the years?
If it is a recent thing I guess it might be worth scrubbing it up again, re-sowing with acid-loving plant seed and hoping the rains come before it all gets too far gone but I get the feeling this is quite old.
There’s still a fair amount of acid-grassland and it does look wonderful just now. Shame those poor old Anglo Saxon tumuli get flatter every year…