Whilst all the recent news about HS2 has been about the Eastern leg to Leeds being mothballed it would be easy to forget that the rest of the new railway is still being built – especially Phase 1 from London to Birmingham and beyond (which contains the most impressive structures on the line) – and Phase 2a to Crewe, although that’s still in the early stages of utilities diversions and site clearances as part of the preparatory works, before full construction begins next year.
It’s often difficult to get a sense of the progress being made on the project as much of the route is in the countryside and not always visible, unless you happen to stumble across it. It’s why drone footage such as this latest one by Michael Warner is so useful.
You can really see the enormous progress being made building the route of HS2 in open country, as well as some of the ecological mitigation that’s being put in place in many locations. It’s all the stuff the opponents of HS2 deliberately ignore. Of course, much of the route looks like an open scar at the moment due to the sheer amount of landscaping work that’s being done as part of the project. HS1 looked very similar, but you’d be hard put to identify any of the sites that were used in its construction. HS2 is very much a work in the early stages of progress with the earthworks, which is why it looks this way. Once those earthworks are complete and bridges and tunnels are in place and the land’s been landscaped, this scene will look very different. It’s another reason why drone footage like this is valuable, we’ll be able to look back at in future years and see the changes as the route’s developed from a few trail bores and test pits to a completed railway.
Another useful ‘go-to’ for information on ecological work is a farmer, Penny McGregor (@Penmcgregor on Twitter). Penny used to be anti HS2 and joined the protests against it but has come to realise that campaign was based on falsehoods. Now Penny (who’s become a critical and unbiased supporter of HS2) often tweets pictures showing how the ecological planting is becoming established, and indeed even thriving. This is the antithesis of HS2 antis who always ignore these inconvenient facts and try to pretend this stuff’s been a disaster. Here’s two of Penny’s most recent tweets.
I’m hoping to spend more time looking at the work on the ecological mitigation (as well as the construction sites) myself shortly, but as you can imagine, there’s a heck of a lot of ground to cover. In the meantime, why not follow Penny on Twitter as she’s much closer to the work than I am.
One thing conspicuous by it’s absence in this drone footage (or anything else) is evidence of any protesters or genuine attempts to stop HS2. That’s because the anti HS2 campaign’s dead in the water. The eviction of the last protest camp on Phase 1 at Wendover (and the lack of publicity that received) has effectively killed it off. Add in the advent of winter and the fact there was only ever a few dozen hardcore protesters pretending they could close down over 300 active worksites spread over a huge geographical area and you can see why their claims always were laughable.
Now, the only place left where there’s any regular protests are at Swynnerton in Staffordshire on the Phase 2a route to Crewe close to the ‘Bluebell’ camp as the protesters call it. It’s the only refuge the protesters have left (not that it’ll last long). Here a continually revolving door of (normally) less than a dozen people are pretending they can stop Hs2 by trying (and failing) to block a single site access gate!
You have to laugh! ‘New’ camps? There aren’t any. Not a one, ‘bluebell’ is all that’s left and that was established ages ago. “Grows ever stronger”? Oh, my aching sides! In this picture you have a rag-bag of people who’ve been evicted from elsewhere, or are Phase 1 Nimbys, like the woman on the far left of the lower picture, the hilarious self-publicist Caroline Thompson-Smith of…Calvert, In Buckinghamshire, who pitched up in Staffs for a few hours one day. Caroline is (in)famous for this nonsense about ‘Black Alder’ trees, one of a long series of things she just can’t help making up. Interestingly, several of the old faces have never put in an appearance at Swynnerton as it’s too far from London for them to get to. Mind you, I expect many of the old bangers they drive would never make it there and back anyway!
Quite how failing to block even a single gate on a single site is going to stop Hs2 is a mystery. This seems more like a desperate effort to appear relevant in order to get more gullible people to donate (hence the ‘gofundme’ link included in the post). Sadly for the protesters, the mugs money is running out and they’re increasingly reliant on mysterious large (three figure) donations from an anonymous source. Still, you know what they say about fools and their money. No amount of cash is going to bring the anti HS2 campaign back from the dead!
Now the weather’s turning wintery I don’t expect to see many more of these pointless stunts, and in the New Year this camp will be living on borrowed time as an eviction is inevitable – and unstoppable. 2022 is going to be a huge year for HS2 as construction will be in full swing with several Tunnel-Boring Machines (TBMs) working on different sites, the Colne Valley viaduct taking shape and also major works at Euston, Birmingham Curzon St and Old Oak Common. I’m looking forward to having lots to write about!
I’ve a favour to ask…
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The Bluebell group are playing right into HS2’s hands. They seem intent on providing plenty of evidence for a future injunction on this area… as well as plenty of ammunition for Priti Patel’s draconian new laws.
Paul Bigland said:
They do seem to be on a collision course, but then they’ve no chance of stopping HS2 so it seems Kamikaze tactics are all they have left. Their camp will get evicted in the New Year and that’ll be the end of it. They’ve so little local support and Staffs is too far away from London to get many of the old regulars turning out.
In case you missed it dear reader – the Misbourne Environmental Protection company lost it’s legal attempt to get a judicial review into the granting of a license to HS2 for it’s tunnelling activities under the Chilterns by the Environment Agency. See their web site for links to the judgement.
The Stone Railhead Crisis Group (IMHO more like the “Yarnfield Pensioners Association”) are still convinced they can get the depot at Stone moved “somewhere else.” They prefer a place called Aldersley Rough, but one suspects as long as it’s “not near them” then don’t much care were it is.Their most recent output suggests they have convinced themselves there’s still “everything to play for.”
Always great seeing your photos of HS2 progress. Keep it up!
James K said:
Paul, do feel free to come and visit the ecological mitigation that was put in on what was part of my farm, it cost £400K of taxpayers hard earned money, highlights include a lovely collection of dead trees that were planted in the middle of the 2018 drought. This was despite the valiant efforts of HS2 trying to keep them alive by tankering in tap water from 15 miles away at a cost of £20K. There’s also two ponds that dry out to small puddles every summer if it doesn’t rain for a fortnight, a ‘wildflower meadow’ that’s all docks, thistles and nettles plus a relocated badger set which was put where it floods every year. Absolute textbook example of HS2 doing what they do best – spending a lot of time, effort and money to achieve very little.
Paul Bigland said:
As the photographs from another farmer (Penny McGregor) and an ecologist @philsturgeon have both demonstrated (graphically, rather than anecdotally), your experience is far from typical. I also note that it’s now 2021, nearly 2022 and you refer to an event that happened in 2018, over three years ago. I also note another inconsistency. A badge sett that allegedly floods, yet ponds that dry out through lack of rain. My, you must have some extremely localised weather were you live!
James K said:
Not really, we have a summer when it’s dry and a winter when it’s wet so pretty standard I think!
You’re right to comment on the length of time though, in fairness it has become decent enough wildlife habitat, my point which you missed (or chose to) is that it is a very poor value for taxpayers money wildlife habitat. The areas that HS2 fenced off two to three years ago and have done very little with since are also pretty good habitats because they have reverted to back nature naturally – for free! Loads of little birds flew up from them the other day when I drove past it.
Like I say come and have a look, just because I hate HS2 doesn’t mean I’m not friendly and hospitable!