Cubbington Woods

South Cubbington Wood forms part of the Princethorpe Woods complex which is the largest concentration of semi-natural ancient woodland in Warwickshire. A particular rarity of the site is the presence of wild service trees, which only tend to be found in ancient woodland. Seven species of bats have been recorded at South Cubbington – common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, Nathusius’ pipistrelle, Leisler’s, noctule, Daubenton’s and brown long-eared. A spectacular carpet of wood anemones appears each spring. Grasslands between the wood and the River Leam are home to numerous butterflies and ground-nesting skylarks.

A woodland is classified as ‘ancient’ if records show that the land here has been wooded for four centuries or more. Ancient woodland has been around for so long it has developed special communities of plants and animals not found elsewhere. It’s an important habitat and in sore need of protection.

Cubbington residents particularly treasured an extraordinary 250 year old wild pear tree, which stood at the edge of the wood overlooking the Leam. It was voted Tree of the Year in 2015. Despite a national campaign to save it and a 20,000 signature petition to parliament, the pear tree was torn down by HS2 on 20 October 2020.

At the time of writing Cubbington Woods is completely inaccessible to the public, fenced in by HS2 railings, with all footpaths diverted.

The Artworks

Wind whistles through the barriers around Cubbington Woods where the pear tree once stood. A digger passes. No birds sing.
‘Polypore,’ carved from Cotswold Limestone. 30 x 30 x 20cm.

Beds of gold limestone run all the way from the Cotswolds under Cubbington Wood. The shape of this work references the polypore fungi which recycle the dead timber in woodlands. Other fungi support the living trees through symbiotic mycorrhizal networks, exchanging nutrients and even information with their tree partners.

Many of the sculptures I made for this project feature a cut or slash into the body of the piece. This is how the vast and uneccessary HS2 works appear to me as I cycle through the affected landscapes.

Amanda Randall ‘Fruit,’ Stoneware, 8 x 6 x 3cm 2021
‘Wild Service Tree Bud,’ 40 x 30cm. 2021

The presence of rare wild service trees in Cubbington Wood indicates that this is an ancient woodland hundreds, possibly thousands of years old. The beneficial mycorrhizal networks of fungi and tree roots in these woods take generations to develop and cannot be reproduced simply by replanting or ‘translocating’ topsoil.

Unable to gain access to Cubbington wood, I drew these wild service trees in Richmond Park in London.

‘Wild Service Treee Bark,’ 30 x 20cm. Watercolour 2021

The bark of the wild service tree is covered in perpendicular cracks and fissures, which possibly gives its common name, the Chequer Tree. The fruits are also known as chequers, and were once used to flavour beer, giving rise to a common pub name.

‘Heart,’ Gouache, 84 x 59cm. 2021

A heartbreaking sight greets travellers along the Rugby Road just north of Cubbington Wood. Where once stood rows of mature English oaks are now rows of stumps, the trunks of the trees stacked like corpses in HS2’s compound. The limbs of the felled Cubbington Pear Tree were dumped at the workshop of a local craft worker, who is now expected to create an artefact which will cosole the community for the loss of its woodland and heritage. When I was walking around the woodland, trying to get access, two local girls summed up the situation: ‘HS2 has ruined everything.’

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