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The Laz Word.....From Larry Neild

This week: Chainsaw massacre of 300 Sefton Park trees leaves our columnist stumped (but not for words)

Published on March 31st 2008.


The Laz Word.....From Larry Neild

I never did get to watch The Texan Chainsaw Massacre, though I almost bought the DVD in the bargain box at Blockbusters the other day. It seems the follow-up is being shot right hear in Liverpool in our culture year, The Sefton Park Chainsaw Massacre.

Hundreds of trees are being axed in the park as part of some barmy notion of restoring it to its 19th century state. Only woodentops who breakfast on sawdust muesli could have come up with the idea

Hundreds of trees are being axed in the park as part of some barmy notion of restoring it to its 19th century state.

Only woodentops who breakfast on sawdust muesli could have come up with the idea of chopping down a mini-forest of trees.

This is their logic: the trees were never included in the original plan by Parisian head gardener Edouard Andre, so as part of the re-Victorianisation of Seffie Park they gotta go.

On that logic should the perimeter road be closed to vehicular traffic, to make way for landaus and pony and traps? Should gas mantles replace electric lights in those ornate lamps that decorate the main lanes through the park? Should penny cornets be demanded in place of 21st century rocket-shaped iced lollies and Strawberry Cornettos?

Why not insist on formal Victoriana dress for those wanting to promenade around the park each Sunday? How about those huge Silver Cross perambulators for nannies taking young Cedric for his afternoon dollop of fresh air?

The chainsaw bosses insist the trees are not native to the park, and many of them had self-seeded. Isn’t that how nature is supposed to work?

Those little islands around the bandstand look like barren wastes. Remember how the tree branches used to overhang the watercourse, looking like mini versions of the Amazon. They have destroyed the sense of adventure. We should be lucky the people at the council charged with safe custody of our trees are kept well away from looking after the interests of the city’s elderly.

This idea of ridding the park of hundreds of trees first came up some years ago, and many people – me included – thought, after an outcry, the idea had been abandoned.

But no. Life is never so simple and the chainsaw gang just bide their time.

Local councillor John Coyne was telling me the Friends of Sefton Park was originally established in the wake of the plans to “restore” the park to its original glory. So have they changed their name to The Fiends of Sefton Park by standing by and allowing this destruction?

There’s talk of a compromise which meant only 300 or so trees would go. Three hundred trees, gone, many beautiful specimens.

Every day we read or hear about global warming and the impact of human activity on the planet. We criticise countries for the destruction of rain forests, yet we allow our own trees to be chopped down for cosmetic reasons.

Take the Palm House as another example. I can claim a little credit for its restoration. Hearing about a threat to the dear old palm house I persuaded the then Echo editor John Griffith to go to a public meeting. He agreed, and the next day, thanks to John, the Echo launched its Save The Palm House campaign. I am delighted the building was spared demolition, and it is truly a jewel in the crown.

But it is not what it was. To me the palm house was a tropical jungle in the heart of a northern city. If they had put in a few monkeys and a handful of parrots you could have imagined being in a faraway exotic rain forest. Now it’s a case of trees on wheels, enabling the token specimens to be shoved out of the way for wedding receptions and corporate dos.

I know the Palm House staff look after the place magnificently and do a good job, but through no fault of the staff, it is not what it was a few decades ago.

I am assured when the work is finished the park will look better than ever, but tell that to the whispering grass, mourning the loss of the trees.

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19 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Wavertree massiveMarch 31st 2008.

I've been enjoying Sefton park for the last 11 years I have been living in liverpool. Origenaly from Bristol (one of those "Southern ponces" V.I Lenin Airport talked of.It breaks my heart to walk in the park since the butchery that has been happening to our beautiful trees, and trench warfar carred out in our waterways. The heritage lottery fund that fund this project and Liverpool City council who are carrying out the work has a narrow criterion of returning the park to the original Victorian plan. I find this so called return to this outmoded idea of man’s domination over nature completely out of step with what we now understand about the natural world and man’s duty to protect this ‘rapidly’ dwindling environment. The draining of the lakes for dredging has deprive water birds of fish and food and will inevitably kill aquatic life, there IS another way! (all during the beeding season and capital of culture year 2008)!!!The maintenance of civic parks is of course necessary but we must protect our precious wild life and the city green habitats, especially as our county side no longer has as many wild places for flora and fauna (As was the case in Victorian times).For a long time now the out dated notion of neat and sterilized city garden/park spaces has been outmoded, and is not wholly desirable. Why can’t Liverpool council move with the times! and the changes in landscape gardening and concepts of natural managed environments? Consultation with the residence of Liverpool and (Friends of Sefton Park) has been patchy and duplicitous with agreements broken and trust destroyed.They tried reasoning with the Council and Heritage fund but with no luck.Is it just me or is Liverpool city council; stupid, greedy and short sighted?God presurve us from idiots!!!Don't you think it’s time for direct action, before more destruction.

toriblareMarch 31st 2008.

I think you may find the budget for Glendales has been cut by the council, this means instead of looking after trees and ensuring they are safe and healthy, Glendales has decided to cut a lot of trees across the city down. Just look across the city and you will find trees being cut down and made into wood chipping for the ground. WHY?They may have decided some time ago to make the park as it once was, but I think the trees were there many generations ago.How will this affect the wildlife in the park?Sefton Park was beautiful once, it now looks like a bare mud bathed battleground.I wonder if the Lib Dems will start digging up and cutting down their own special park, Calderstones?There are very few green spaces left in this City, to wreck what we do have is unforgiveable.In the North the council have sold Stanley Park and have been discussing using another Northern Park for Everton football club.Why is it ok to take the parks away from Northern Liverpool people yet keep all the Southern Liverpool parks?Eastern Liverpool seems to have been left alone at the moment but they have Croxteth Park, hundreds of acres have been sold off from this estate to build lego land houses.Who makes these decisions?I thought these parks belonged to the people of Liverpool?Not the city council!No-one has the right to sell our land!

Mr WaverleyMarch 31st 2008.

We used to shake our heads at the damage kids could do to our neighbourhoods while we slept,whoever cleared our park has used the same tactic. When you're not looking in go the jobsworths, tree surgeons? If anybody else went about landscaping like that it would be called malicious damage. Now we've lost the great crested grebes, the swans and geese. The rest of the moorhens and coots are scrapping constantly over any bit of cover to breed. It's a disgrace, the victorians weren't interested in wildlife unless you could shoot it, what is the reason for this approach to landscaping when the park was beautiful as it was. This city isn't culture it's a building site patrolled by gangs of adrenalined up police vans who parade their seized cars like trophies outside their gang hut!

Liverpool ConfidentialMarch 31st 2008.

Yes, sorry Stanley Dock about deleting the URL. They do tend to bugger things up if they are very long, but point taken and keep your comments coming.

Fairfield residentMarch 31st 2008.

I only hope that the destruction in Sefton Park isn't replicated in Newsham Park. I am horrified by the lack of care of this beautiful space - if it was in south Liverpool would it be looked after any better? or campaigned about more? The bandstand - which my partner remembers as a child had many concerts - it is a precious piece of history. A walk in a park in London last summer proved that bandstands were still worthy of concerts and drawing in people to listen to music and relax on the grass on a sunday afternoon, a real scene of community togetherness. I hope it isn't lost and destroyed liek so many other landmarks of this city.

V. I. Lenin AirportMarch 31st 2008.

Wapping. You're right about 'Rotten Row' being full of sand for exercising horses. When as nippers in the late 1960s my friends and I discovered it (under strict supervision of our mothers during the school hols) at the edge of the Review Field, we couldn't believe our luck; a park and sand like a beach to play in! I can remember horses trotting there too. But then until a few years ago the big house at Croxteth Gate (you could see the lions on either side of the front steps if the gates were left open) was occupied by a genuine 1920s flapper. When she died the auction of house contents attracted international attention.

AnonymousMarch 31st 2008.

I actually didn't say anyone said it was terrible to do, i just referred to the pictures and article previously on this site, showing the before and after effects, think it's a bit unfair to show the park in such a way, as people, unlike myself who can't get there only have these images to judge the park by. Your right though, don't know why it had to start now in our 'cap of cult' year

John Lennon AirportMarch 31st 2008.

To Anonymous the first: I don't think anyone is saying that it's terrible to refurbish the park, just that to schedule it right now, in Capital of Culture year, when the rest of the city already looks like a bomb site, could just possibly be seen by some people as madness. Not to mention the fact that it's the breeding season, so to drain all the watercourses at this time cannot be the best idea the council has had.

Hilary BurrageMarch 31st 2008.

I saw an etching of the 'original' park the other day. Then, the park was bare - but, importantly, it was also surrounded very largely by hills and fields. Now it's surrounded on all sides, for miles and miles, by cars and houses and people.....Those currently in charge seem to have missed the point quite spectacularly: There are in modern times only a very small number of places in inner-city Liverpool where one could kid oneself that a stroll in 'the countryside' was possible. Now I guess there are even fewer. So much for helping people to experience living environments and a green ethic.No-one I think is denying that the waterways needed to be cleaned up - they should have been kept clear and not neglected anyway.But this wilful destruction of perfectly healthy mature trees which are not directly obstructing the waterway is horrid - and so of course is the massive assault on all the many and varied shrubs, including wonderful rhodedendrons,which were about to bloom.And that's before we get to the issues of carbon and 'city lungs' etc...You can see some photos of Sefton Park as it was till recently, and now is, if you'd like to go to www.hilaryburrage.com/…/…. I shall be adding more in due course.Is it correct btw that one of the reasons the islands have been denuded so radically and grimly is that the powers-that-be don't want the waterfowl (swans, herons, grebes) to nest; because if the birds nested the work would have to be delayed till after the nesting season?(Worth mentioning here that the 'renovation' was supposed to have started as I gather last Autumn, and the island bits completed before the nesting season. So who, if that's correct, got it so spectacularly wrong?)People are very upset by this excessively agressive 'clearing' of the park. You can see walkers and visitors together lamenting it even though they don't know each other, every time you go there.As an example of gratutious destruction Sefton Park now takes some beating. Sure it will 'recover' (a bit); but it will be decades before it again offers a green and restful haven in a pretty challenging wider environment.I really hope that there will be no more tree felling; but I fear there is still more to come. Just take a look where the ribbons are, and ask which of those trees is, or isn't, unavoidably obstructing something important - and I don't mean sightlines for old monuments.Thanks, Hilary

AnonymousMarch 31st 2008.

Not in our lifetime though

Sevvie ParkerMarch 31st 2008.

In Victorian times peacocks roamed the Review Field. Will the authenticity brigade demand their reintroduction or will their zeal fall short of that, citing some lame excuse about health and saftey?

Sir Howard WayMarch 31st 2008.

Larold said:- "Why not insist on formal Victoriana dress for those wanting to promenade around the park each Sunday?" Hear hear! the current shower of tramps, castaways and ragamuffins that lollop into the park from Lark Lane are a complete disgrace!

V. I. Lenin AirportMarch 31st 2008.

One of the statistics we beleaguered Liverpudlians used to defend our home city from the ignorant prejudice of lazy bigots (usually Southern ponces) was that per head of population that Liverpool had more trees than any other city in Europe. I suppose this is no longer true then?

Stanley StreetMarch 31st 2008.

Note that it is all for the high-flying professional sports practitioners. There's nothing here for the locals whose parkland has been concreted-over, not even a paddling pool for the nippers!

AnonymousMarch 31st 2008.

Went to Sefton Park last Saturday to take a look after the 'terrible' pictures on this site (gangs of rats and things).Have to say - there are plenty of notices around stating what's going on, not a rat to be found, (although have seen them previously) Saw the tree stumps but also saw next to most of them a new tree planted, so thought - isn't this good, that we're part of the new Sefton Park- trees being planted now are our legacy for history..Is it just me, or am I being a bit to positive about this?

Stanley StreetMarch 31st 2008.

Actually that was me, I mis-typed my own name! Apologies to the real 'Stanley Dock' whoever he is!

Sefton ParkMarch 31st 2008.

"I've been enjoying Sefton park for the last 11 years" _____ And you DISGUST me!

Stanley DockMarch 31st 2008.

See the Council's own website and look up Olympic Pool item (dated 26.12.07) to read Blowhard Bradley showing off in his own words. (Liverpool Confidential deleted the URL, probably because it was too long and mucked up their page formatting)

WappingMarch 31st 2008.

The Culture of Capital. There's money in it so it happens. Adding to the the list of original Victorian characteristics are the canter known as Rotten Row - made specifically for riding horses and the Deer Park was used for grazing cattle, even in living memory I believe. Sefton Park was resilient to the vandalism, it remained beautiful even after the shelters were torched in the 1980s but cutting down 300 trees is breathtaking in the extreme and it's not going to recover anytime in my lifetime. And does this return to Victorian values include demolishing the tower blocks since the original bequest stated that the only man-made thing to be visible above the tree line should be the tower of Mossley Hill church? And much more pertinently, even I, as a South-ender, would put poor old Newsham Park at the top of the list of parks needing attention and renovation. I drove past there today and it's a wasteland.

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