The devlopment of high-speed railway HS2 has caused major controversy, with spiralling costs and fears for what this means for the habitats and wildlife that lie in its path. Four years ago, Patrick Barkham walked the proposed HS2 line from London to Birmingham, and now he discusses the impacts of HS2 and the project’s ability to stay true to its ‘no net-loss of biodiversity’ pledge.
North Buckinghamshire is unexpectedly tranquil. Thatched cottages adorn wiggling village high streets, and there are no major roads. Billowing Blackthorn hedges are remnants of the ancient royal hunting forest of Bernwood. Despite the loss of elms, this remains a well-wooded landscape, its heavy clays unconducive to the industrial agriculture that has turned much of neighbouring Bedfordshire into bleak fieldscapes. But this intimate countryside is under intense pressure.