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Rail workers ‘just trashed our garden’

Couple left devastated by ‘wanton vandalism’ of trackside patch

22 December, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Sign asking workers to be careful with plants

A COUPLE who spent more than 20 years creating a “beautiful” community garden were left devastated when rail workers destroyed it at the weekend.

The Corsica Street garden – on a bridge over rail tracks from nearby Canonbury Station – was trashed during early-morning maintenance work by Network Rail, despite repeated pleas from residents to look after the plants they had spent years cultivating.

“This is wanton vandalism. My wife is distressed and devastated. We understand they need to maintain the bridge but they’ve destroyed the garden,” said Neville Cowtown, who helps maintains the garden with partner Cynthia Locke.

He added: “The trellises have been ripped off and thrown on the ground. We put up notices all around the garden asking workers to take care and they haven’t. They’ve just trashed it.

“We even wrote to Network Rail and asked them to please be careful. The community gets a lots of pleasure from the garden. They stop and talk and enjoy it. A lot of people are very upset.”

Ms Locke was recognised for her green fingers when she scooped top prize in the Best Forgotten Corner category at the annual gardening competition run by the Town Hall.

Workers from Network Rail, which owns the land but leases it out to residents living around Corsica Street, entered the garden in the early hours of Sunday to undertake “improvement works”.

A letter to residents sent just days before the work began explained how line-side vegetation can obscure signals and get blown onto tracks.

In the letter, Denise Thompson, a community relations manager at the rail company, wrote: “Where suitable, logs and branches will either be left to create a safe habitat for wildlife; chipped and spread evenly; or will be completely removed.”

But Mr Cowtown doesn’t believe the workers made any effort to preserve the garden.

Labour councillors, along with the borough’s sole opposition councillor, the Green Party’s Caroline Russell, were united in condemnation of Network Rail.

Cllr Russell told the Tribune: “It was awful to see the mess left behind by Network Rail after their recent trackside work. The creative planting in the beautiful garden on a strip of land by the railway cheers people passing by throughout the year. Network Rail were asked to take care of the plants.

“Their lack of respect for the work of volunteer gardeners is shocking.”

A Network Rail spokeswoman apologised for the “unacceptable” damage. Workers had to go through the garden to carry out work to Canonbury Tunnel.

“Early in the New Year, Network Rail will carry out work to rectify the damage,” she added. A meeting would be held with the community to discuss this.

“We will also look for ways we can better access the site in the future and reduce the risk of damage to the garden.”

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