Thursday, 14 July 2011

Box Hill's Olympic dilemma



Next July, the Olympic cycling road-race will hurtle around London and Surrey. The route includes the roads around Box Hill, including the famous zig-zag. Now, I do like my sport and have plans to go and see part of this particular event. I also like my wildlife. It is here where these two worlds collide. I can think of no better a natural ampitheatre to watch Mark Cavendish take on the world's best than the steep slopes that meander wildly up the side of the North Downs. But where will we be able to spectate from? This particular area is home to a magnificent chalk downland flora and some very localised invertebrates. A sudden influx of several thousand people onto the zig-zag will do damage to this fauna and flora - but as to how drastic the damage will be, I don't know. I have heard rumours of no access at all, that there will be cordoned-off vieweing areas and that in the spirit of the Olympics we will be allowed to trample on Musk Orchids (above), Dew Moths and Straw Belles. Has Lord Coe donned a hard hat and wandered the zig-zag with a man from the ministry calculating the worth of orchids against the TV rights? Will I join in the crush of Silver-spotted Skippers to get a glimpse of the cyclists as they flash past? Or will we all watch from the more mundane A24, having to console ourselves with remote images from the 20 different TV cameras set high on gantries along the length of the climb? There will be damage, I'm sure, whatever happens.

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