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 have already been felled in these woodlands and around the NAEC, and many more will be lost, but ornamental Turkey oak trees, 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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