The Oak Wood (General presentation)

“Bosco delle Querce” or “Oak Wood” is situated between the towns of Seveso and Meda. The forest covers an area of 43 acres, 35 of which belong to Seveso and 8 to Meda. The Certosa creek runs through the forest from the west and flows into the river Seveso. Bosco delle Querce covers an area (A Zone) which was polluted after a toxic cloud containing a mixture of poisonous gases, including one known as dioxin (2,3,7,8 TCDD), was released from the Icmesa chemical plant on July 10, 1976.

Subsequently, the area was entirely reclaimed by demolishing existing buildings and removing a layer of topsoil from the ground surface. This decision was made after much controversial debate. The decision to plant a wood after the removal of the contaminated topsoil came as the result of public outcry in Seveso in the aftermath of the accident. A local resident, professor Gian Antonio Lanzani, an expert in biochemistry, also lent his qualified support to the project. Environmental and forestry work began in 1984 and was completed two years later. Today the Wood is a symbolic place with a story to tell. The park is alive and is still able to establish a dialogue between the present and the past.

It takes just a few tens of hectares of forest and grassland, in the heart of the heavily urbanised and industrial Brianza region, to offer an immensely important haven for various animal species. This is the Bosco delle Querce. Sandwiched between the towns of Seveso and Meda, this environmental island has enjoyed a protected status ever since it was returned to nature following the Seveso disaster. Thanks to an extensive reforestation and clean-up project that saw the creation of woodland, shrubland, grassland and wetland (the main natural habitats in Lombardy’s high plains area), nature has gradually reclaimed the spaces that man had stolen from it. Numerous species have now returned of their own accord to live in the area, recolonising a previously barren land. The rich tapestry of natural habitats that now exist in this protected area includes deciduous and coniferous forests, shrublands, grasslands, meadows, and wetlands such as ponds and streams that are home to significant biodiversity. Among the tree species that can be found in the park are Turkey oak, English oak, sessile oak, common lime, European hornbeam, European beech, common ash and various species of maple. The most populous shrubs in the park are the common hawthorn and the common dogwood, whose leaves turn an intense shade of red in autumn.
The park is also home to privets and wayfarer tree whose beautiful white flowers light up the bushes each spring. Initially set up with a somewhat artificial layout, the forest has been redesigned to transform the park into a more natural environment that promotes the creation of reclaimed areas or so-called “brownfield sites”. As a result, the Bosco delle Querce is able to fulfil a dual function: being aesthetically pleasing / ornamental and recreational on the one hand while also providing natural habitats. It is with this in mind that, since 1989, the number of mown lawns and pruned hedges has been gradually reduced year by year. What used to be 28 ha of such spaces shrank to 16 ha by 1991, all with the goal of encouraging the ecosystem to develop naturally. Thanks to this careful management throughout the years, natural environments have flourished and found themselves populated by numerous animal species. The park’s latest arrival is the butterfly meadow. For several years now, the field next to the Great Poplar has been left to its own devices and each spring plays host to a range of butterfly species.

Since December 2005, the Bosco delle Querce has been a designated regional nature park and is managed by the Seveso Municipality in conjunction with that of Meda. The park’s work is supervised by a special committee composed of representatives from the Municipalities of Seveso and Meda, as well as the Lombardia Region, the Lombardia Foundation for the Environment and the ERSAF (regional body for agriculture and forestry).
Over recent years the Bosco delle Querce has promoted a series of initiatives in collaboration with various local associations. The park boasts its own visitors’ centre (on Via Ada Negri) and offers environmental educational activities for schools as well as guided tours for adults in collaboration with Italian environmental association Legambiente. The park is open every day from April to October, and at weekends from November to March. During the winter, however, you can still visit the park every day from 7 am to 12:30 pm through the Via Ada Negri entrance that leads to the Visitors’ Centre, where the local environmental office is also based.
Due to its unusual origins, the park is a source of continual study among scientific researchers. The nature reserve in particular offers the chance to work with an almost entirely isolated area where human intervention has been dramatically reduced. Since the very start, the park has been cared for and managed by ERSAF. Formerly ARF – Regional Forestry Agency – the agency has arranged a series of initiatives to develop the park’s ecosystem, resulting in the area being repopulated with trees and divided into its various different landscape arrangements.