Spirit of the Greenwood

This is really important. You’ll recall that a couple of weeks ago I, and other members of the local online community made a passionate plea for the preservation of the Walsall Council Countryside Services team, and the vital work they do.

Please join the Facebook group. Click on the image to go straight there.

Well, it’s all kicking off. Walsall are axing two of the four department posts, which may save two salaries, but will result in the decline and decay of the best assets of the borough. Two staff aren’t nearly enough to achieve the management, education and conservation work currently undertaken. Such a loss is short sighted, will cost the council more in the long run, due to increased ASB and emergency management required, and will destroy one of the things that Walsall does best.

We cannot let this go without a fight. How many people know, for instance, that without Countryside Services there would be no externally funded refurbishment of Barr Beacon, and no volunteer groups working to maintain the open spaces we have?

For a coalition council whose political control mimics that of the coalition government, boldly pontificating about the third sector and The Big Society, this action will destroy one of the best embodiments of it. Is that really what they want?

Perhaps if so much money hadn’t been squandered on paying off Serco, funding the ridiculous Gigaport (now known as the Giggleport hereabouts, thanks Martin) or paying third-party agencies for consultants and overpriced heads of department, we wouldn’t be in such a mess.

Young Hedgehog
Who’s going to introduce guys like this fellow to the school kids of tomorrow? Image from Walsall Wildlife’s Flickr photo stream. Please check your bonfires before lighting.

For any councillors reading this, check out what this team actually do. I’d guarantee if you knew, you’d be surprised and amazed. Ramblers groups, outdoor education and special events all depend on this team, who in the great scheme of things cost very little – certainly less than the Chief Executive. The defenders of Walsall’s green lungs need support in the chamber. Please get in touch if you can help. Browhillsbob at googlemail dot com. In confidence.

The indefatigable Linda Mason has set up a Facebook group to co-ordinate protest and keep all interested parties in touch. Please join it. An official Walsall Council petition will follow as soon as it has been approved by the system at Walsall.

If you care, please join the Facebook group, comment here or sign the petition when it goes live.

I will be writing more about this in coming days. This is not over. Not by a long stretch.

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  • Love the passion you’re openly showing at the moment Bob, in all posts. I really hope that we can run with this one all the way.

  • peter

    Perhaps this is the beginning of trying to fund the new Oak Park???.
    What an absolute JOKE! short Sighted, penny pinching suits with their snouts in the trough blindfold and salivating on OUR money. If these jobs go they will never come back, they will be gone forever, who is making these decisions? Was it a Council vote ? Who voted which way? When are the local council elections? Walsall Council hang your head in shame.

  • Reblogged this on Getting There and commented:
    Bob on Walsall Countryside Services

  • Great post, this is so important, but please don’t forget other services like parks and park rangers. Without them our parks are at risk of becoming dangerous overgrown playgrounds for gangs, and all sorts of crime related activities instead of havens for the boroughs children. Without park rangers like the fabulous John Millard (to name just one) there probably won’t be any more bonfires and firework displays like the ones that are going on at the moment, or other park related events many of which are done in their own time. Forestry folk are at risk too, so it’s the whole range of ‘Green Spaces’ which are at risk and need fighting for.

    • peter

      Well said, totally agree

  • mr keep your dog on its lead

    Give the flora and fauna the space it needs and let nature take its course nature doesn’t need gangs of welly clad missionaries bringing civilization via the inappropriately named nature trail.

    I wouldn’t encourage more people to encroach into the last remaining refuges for wildlife for their own amusement people may want to get closer to nature but unfortunately nature doesn’t want them any closer.

    • Tim

      Countryside management is designed to help the local flora and fauna not hinder it e.g. as you mentioned ‘nature trails’, these are designed to allow people to enjoy nature whilst keeping them away from more sensitive areas. Also, without these vital services, IT WOULD ‘encourage more people to encroach into the last refuges for wildlife’ i.e. your local friendly fly-tipper, cottager and syringe-throwing opium addict…..

      • I don’t know anything about countryside management, but I can tell you what’s happened to a piece of land next to my house. It was the site of 2 houses which were demolished in the 70’s, the owner is the woman who also owned my house. When she lived here she maintained it as an informal nature reserve – semi wild but looked after sort of thing. It is only about 18months since the last time she came to work on it, but trees and shrubs are dying due to being strangled by brambles and weeds, huge tree branches have fallen on neighbours fences and are still lying in gardens. When we venture over there to see what we can save, the area is littered by fast food wrappers, medical waste, needles, gas cans, durex etc. Numerous small fires have been lit. Add to that rats…. This is just one small area on private land, translate this borough wide to parks and countryside and the implications are seriously scary.

    • pedro

      Is it all right to go if you aint got a dog?

  • interested

    Not to mention about 5million quid on ‘doing up’ the Civic so that everyone can feel they work in a call centre…

  • Sarah Taylor

    The cuts will also the end of the urban park ranger teams who cover our urban parks, play areas and open spaces. Four senior ranger posts are to be deleted and existing park rangers are to become streetpride operatives. Please see the facebook site for more details !!

  • The vast majority of accessible nature has been managed by man for centuries. If we want it to remain accessible and enjoyable – and this is vitally important in a borough like Walsall, which is not exactly the Lake District, the New Forest or the Cotswolds (which are all managed, not left to go to waste) – we need to maintain the staff levels in parks and countryside which are already minimal, having been continually run down since the 1980s.

    It’s not that long ago since we lost our permanent on-site park keepers, and dare I mention the loss some years ago of the highly productive parks department facilities in the Arboretum and at Gorway? And what about real efficiency savings which can be made? I can’t think that exporting money outside the borough to pay for contractors, agency workers and the flowers that bloom in plastic buckets on our High Streets makes very good economic sense either. Bring it back in-house if you want to save money. Hell, you could even generate income that way.

    Sadly, modern governments are all about the short-term headless chicken balance sheet especially when it involves things that only affect us plebs/commoners/serfs – and a knee jerk application of ‘slash and burn’ which allows for neither thought nor careful consideration of legacy. The leader of Birmingham Council, Albert Bore, recently made it clear that the ConDem government’s cuts regime will see the end of local government as we know it, and this is just another sad symptom of that thoughtless culture.

    Ill-considered cuts will surely mean that one day our green spaces will end up as locations exclusively for burnt-out cars, fly-tipped rubbish and drug addicts, not havens for both hard-pressed wildlife and those of us in need of a bit of spiritual freedom in stress-distorted modern life.

    The civic-minded Victorians who created our parks as their legacy to the people must be spinning in their graves.

  • Rob

    Let’s hope Albert Bore is proved correct.
    Quite a lot of us have had more than enough of “local government as we know it”, thanks very much.

  • The startled squirrel

    I suppose weeds and brambles are a bit too natural for some folk! Stride along in your wellies along your manicured “nature trails” berserk mutt bounding through the undergrowth why not stop and intimidate a deer or bother a badger why not startle a squirrel.

    Like I said you may be a nature lover but nature doesn’t love you this is a fact the countryside doesn’t need to be managed into a theme park fly tipping isn’t half as disturbing to wildlife as wildlife enthusiasts are best to stay away and let the hedgehogs play.

    • Is there any need to keep commenting under different aliases?

    • Weeds are great, so are blackberries in moderation, I’m sure we’ve all at some point got sick through eating too many wild blackberries – you obviously don’t get out into the countryside much, and that is fine, another point of view is always interesting, no matter how misguided, thank you.

    • Weeds and brambles need management, if you don’t manage them then your lovely countryside becomes a one trick pony with no diversity.Leave those brambles to grow too much and the acorns cannot grow and if acorns cannot grow what’s a poor startled squirrel going to do for food?
      You obviously are no nature lover otherwise you wouldn’t make such incredibly crass comments. We don’t want a theme park, we just want to retain what we already have; an incredibly diverse and rich set of nature reserves and parks on our doorstep.

  • Pedro

    Walk in the Fells of the Lake District, the remote Highlands of Scotland, or in the bleakness of Kinder Scout on a misty day. Enjoy it!

    Some day we may not be able, or mobile enough, to venture to these types of places, and the local Nature Trail along which we could be pushed in a wheelchair will have disappeared.

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