A pest control contractor employed by HS2 has been spotted flying hawks over Broadwells Wood in Warwickshire to deter birds from nesting in an astonishing move that “smacks of a cowboy operation, not a Government infrastructure project”, says the Woodland Trust.

But while the practice is highly dubious the more worrying question is why when HS2 has publically committed to translocating soils from this ancient woodland as part of their compensation package.  This can only be done when the wood is dormant – late autumn/early winter. Attempting to clear the wood of nesting birds indicates HS2 is intending to fell this wood much sooner. This is completely against what HS2 has committed to do.

Luci Ryan, lead ecologist for the Woodland Trust said: “Alarming as it is that a Government scheme would use such a damaging method, and without disclosing1 it, we’re more concerned about why and what comes next? The wood is currently teeming with life – bluebells emerging, badgers busy in their setts and birds prospecting.

“Works should not start until October when the wood is dormant, so it begs the question why attempt to prevent birds nesting now unless contractors wish to bring the bull dozers in this spring? By employing tactics that skirt the law, HS2 yet again appears to be a cowboy operation and not an exemplar of best practice expected of a Government-backed project. “

The fight was lost to protect the irreplaceable ancient2 Broadwells Wood near Warwick, and HS2Ltd has permission to fell 3.2 hectares to make way for phase one between London and Birmingham. But the work should not begin until late autumn when the wood becomes dormant to allow for HS2’s unproven method to move the ancient soils3. It is also illegal4 for anyone to intentionally damage or destroy a nest whilst it is being built or in use. 

The Woodland Trust is contacting HS2 for explanation.

Luci concludes: “This latest action adds even further weight to the argument for a rethink on the execution of HS2. Bar the outrage of conservationists and members of the public, who is holding HS2 to account? It seems they’ve been left to mark their own homework.” 

Notes to editors

For media queries only please contact Natalie Stephenson on 01476 581121 or nataliestephenson@woodlandtrust.org.uk. Public enquiries should be directed to 0330 333 3300 or enquiries@woodlandtrust.org.uk.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,200 sites in its care covering approximately 29,000 hectares. Access to its woods is free so everyone can benefit from woods and trees.

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

The Trust has three key aims:  

  1. protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
  2. restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
  3. create native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.


1. Under the assurances of the Hybrid Bill, HS2Ltd are meant to notify the Woodland Trust of any works within 100 metres of the wood.

2. Ancient woods are irreplaceable habitat, meaning that once lost they can’t be replaced. Ancient woods are home to species that can’t survive anywhere else. They are also home to more wildlife than any other land habitat. Less than 3% of the UK is covered by ancient woodland meaning any loss can never be justified.

3. Translocation. Translocation is defined as the wholesale removal of a functioning habitat from one area to another. Increasingly it is being suggested as a form of environmental compensation for proposed developments. However, translocation is not feasible for ancient woodland. Natural England¹ clearly states that an “ancient woodland ecosystem cannot be moved". Industry guidance² on translocation also considers that translocation of high value sites such as ancient woodland is only “an appropriate activity to salvage and create a new habitat of some value, albeit a lower one than lost”.

4. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it’s an offence intentionally to kill, injure or take any wild bird, or take or destroy their eggs or nest, or damage a nest, while that nest is in use or being built.