Stoneleigh is a picturesque village located near the confluence of the rivers Avon and Sowe. It features many buildings, including the church, constructed from the distinctive local red sandstone. Red bricks and oak timbers are also prominent, as the local clay soil was very suitable for small scale brick production.

The HS2 route here passes through Stoneleigh Park, the National Agricultural and Exhibition centre, home of the Royal Show. It grazes the estate of Stoneleigh Abbey, visited by Jane Austen, and home to Shakespeare’s Oak, a 1000 year old veteran English Oak. The picturesque setting of the Grade II listed Stare Bridge over the Avon will be largely destroyed. Construction of a road bridge and embankment will remove small wood known as Hares Parlour and other woodland managed by the NAEC.

Many mature English oak trees (Quercus Robur) have already been felled in these woodlands and around the NAEC, and many more will be lost, but ornamental Turkey oak trees (Quercus Cerris), with their distinctive hairy acorn cups, still line the road from the village. Turkey oak is not as valuable to native wildlife as English and sessile oaks, but is much faster growing and tends to take over. It is also host to the knopper oak gall wasp, which is very harmful to English oaks. By contrast, the beleaguered English oak supports more life than any other native tree species in the UK; even its fallen leaves support biodiversity.

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The Artworks

Rain on the Avon

‘Cutting,’ carved from Cotswold limestone, 20 x 20 x 30cm

The gently fluted oval shape references the acorns of the English oaks in Stoneleigh, but the slash up the centre represents the gash cut across the landscape by HS2.

Amanda Randall ‘Bore, 2,’ Stoneware, 7 x 6 x 3cm. 2021

Although part of the route of HS2 passes through tunnels, much of it gouges through the landscape in cuttings and on embankments which interrupt watercourses and damage the flow of groundwater. In southern parts of the route the tunnelling operations are using so much water they threaten London’s drinking water supplies.

‘Fantasy Fungi,’ Installation 2021. Polymer clay.

Wouldnt it be great if there were a fungi that would eat up all the steel and concrete which is devastating biodiversity, and recycle it into nutrients for more trees? I had a personal escort of two very confused security guards while I made this. They thought I was completely mad, which is arguably true. Most of the HS2 workers come from far beyond the local area and have no connection with the local community.

‘Poison cup,’ digital image, 2021

Ornamental Turkey oak trees, introduced to this country in the 1700s, are taking over from native common or English oaks. The common oaks support far more biodiversity – more than almost any other species – yet hundreds of them are being felled to make way for HS2 and associated works. The Turkey oak is also host to the knopper oak gall wasp, a parasite which harms the native oaks.

‘Warwickshire Landscape,’ Ink and watercolour, 40 x 30cm. 2020

Roads and railway lines have evolved organically to create a patchwork of fields and communities. The HS2 line slashes across these local networks, cutting watercourses, wildlife highways, local transport routes and communities, without bringing any benefits to the area.

Amanda Randall. Cow parsley seeds. Collage. 20 x 28cm 2020
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