Oh deer me


I spotted this lady resting with the rest of her herd of 10-15 does in the field behind the former Highfields Farm in Pool Road last Sunday.

As expected, the usual Brownhills Blowhards are now in top gear over the proposal to undertake heathland management on a portion of Brownhills Common, and have been fulminating to the Express & Star, and presumably, anyone else who’ll listen.

As the old adage attests, sometimes, it’s better to be considered ignorant than to open one’s mouth and prove it. Last night’s meeting at Rushall Community Centre proved that the protagonists of this sudden and remarkably intense outrage aren’t concerned for facts, listening to expert opinion or indeed, good manners.

It’s sad that a valid and necessary proposal has already been reduced to the traditional Brownhillian Bunfight, but it doesn’t surprise me. That folk who should be old and wise enough to know better are whipping up public opposition to a proposal not yet fully  explained to the town is sad and regressive.

It’s a shame that some of this outrage wasn’t mobilised when Tesco took the town for a ride. It seems you can lead the village elders up the garden path as much as you like, but don’t reverse your bandwagon over any conifers, or you’ll be for it.

For those who haven’t seen it, the Express and Star article can he read here. I’ve transcribed it at the foot of this article for clarity.

I’d like to make the following points about some of the more bizarre assertions:


Red deer love open heathland. this group of two adult females and two fawns was spotted on Chasewater North Heath one Monday lunchtime late last summer.

  • The deer will not leave the common if the conifer plantations are removed. Deer love heathland.
  • Deer like areas of low scrub, where they can lay low in cover.
  • The conifer plantations to be removed have no such low growth, so the deer find deciduous scrub to rest in, particularly when birthing.
  • Deer like to graze in open country where possible. This is why they spend so much time on Cuckoo Bank, Chasewater North Heath, Highfields and lower Holland Park. None of these places have confer plantations and are, in fact, mostly open heathland.
  • The heathland management does not cover the entire common – just the bit above Holland Park to the A5 and in the Watling Street/Parade/Chester Road triangle, as explained in my initial post. There will still be lots of untouched scrub and coppice around Coppice Side, Engine Lane and north of the A5.
  • The heathland will provide better grazing for the deer, who like the cattle at Chasewater, will help maintain it. Deer are better at this than cattle as they have a broader diet.
  • Perhaps the reason the deer seem to run so much may be something to do with the dog walkers. Just a thought.
  • Heath isn’t barren landscape. Broad-leaved deciduous copse is a natural part of heathland margins.
  • One of the arguments seems to be that if you remove conifers, you won’t be able to see the seasons change. This is utterly bizarre. Conifers are evergreens. To see seasonal colour, we need to encourage deciduous growth. That’s exactly the plan.
  • Biodiversity is just that: it’s not only deer out there on the common. It’s whole varieties of flora, fungi, amphibians, birds and mammals. There are rabbits, foxes, badgers and other mustelids. Voles, mice and hares. Raptors and warblers. There are rare species of newt and flower. They are all worthy of our wonder and protection.
  • There seems to be a suspicion that this is being done for money. The wood cut down will be so old and unmanaged that it’s next to worthless. There is no money to be had here, other than the grants from Natural England to achieve the objective. With the state of public funding at the moment, there’s hardly a spirit of largesse.
  • There is going to be a consultation process, and nothing, contrary to the claims being made, is imminent. The whole process will be explained at meetings and through public information in libraries, etc.
  • There is absolutely no need to panic.

Red deer roam ute distances, and get into strange places. These two were up by the by-pass in January 2010.

This is going to be a long haul. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love the common, and everything on it. Anyone who follows my work will know that. I have great affection for the deer – all the photos in this article I took myself. However, this work is necessary to protect the common and the rare species that dwell there for future generations.

The people behind this scheme are listing to you. At least do them the honour of listing, too.

It would be nice, if just for once, Brownhills could put away it’s persecution complex and listen to expertise.

The article in the Express & Star reads:

Deer to ‘disappear’ through heath plan at Brownhills Common

More heathland is set to be created at Brownhills Common, it was revealed today, sparking fears it could drive deer away.

Plans have been unveiled to increase the amount of heathland from 36 per cent to 60 per cent.

But it has sparked concern from some Brownhills residents, who believe it may mean the loss of woodland. They claim deer currently hide in the trees on the common and creating more heathland could mean they move somewhere else.

Walsall Council has teamed up with Natural England to increase the amount of lowland heathland at the site, which has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, over the next decade.


In summer 2011, these young ladies spent many content days grazing around Jockey Meadows in Walsall Wood.

Chiefs insist no mature native trees will be chopped down and say existing woodland will be reduced by less than half, meaning some scrub, conifer trees and bramble will make way.

Barrie Poxon, vice chairman of the Local Brownhills Committee, said some residents were starting a petition against the move.

‘Some people in Brownhills do not want to see this reduced to heathland, we want to see it stay as it is,’ said the 72-year-old.

‘For a start off the deer will disappear. The common is well-used by families and people out walking their dogs and the deer tend to hide behind the trees. We’re very proud to have deer in Brownhills.

‘Also with heathland, you won’t be able to see the changes of the season like you can with trees. When the snow comes, the trees look beautiful.’

Currently, around 30 acres of Brownhills Common is covered in heathland with the rest made up of woodland, grassland, scrub and paths. But Walsall leisure chief Anthony Harris said the borough should count itself lucky to have lowland heathland, which is considered a “rare and threatened habitat”.

‘By increasing the area of heathland it provides an opportunity for people to catch sight of rare plants and animals which thrive in this environment on their doorstep and will also potentially attract large numbers of people from further afield to visit Walsall,’ he said.

‘The aim is to increase the area of heathland by removing certain areas of trees and scrub that have either been planted and/or have colonised the site over the years.’

A consultation will take place before any work begins, with the Forestry Commission having to give final approval. The plans were being discussed tonight by the Brownhills, Pelsall, Shelfield, Rushall and Brownhills partnership.

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31 Responses to Oh deer me

  1. The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.
    Wayne Dyer

  2. Jeepboy says:

    I am all for countryside management which will help the profligation of diverse species – but as for the deer – didn’t I recently read that a national cull is required to control the burgeoning population?

    • Yes, but it’s a side issue really. There have been a couple of culls here in the last decade. Sadly, I think poaching and traffic are doing the job at the moment.

  3. Peter says:

    Evening all……. I’d like to know where Barrie Poxon gets his data and evidence from? “The deer will disappear” He also says, according to the newspaper article that “some people want it to stay as it is” Which people? How about Barrie and his band of merry men (and women) shut up for 5 minutes and listen to the experts.
    On a slightly different subject, does anyone know when the next elections are to be held for positions on the “Brownhills Local Committee?
    Mind how you go……….

  4. Andy Dennis says:

    Like pretty well all wild creatures deer roam to find food, that is grazing. On the dark, needle-mulched, brambly pine wood floor there is no significant grazing available. Deer also seek shelter from cold winds and for their fawns, but the more open pine wood is not very good for this. Both are available in the native deciduous woods and in the heathers and tall grasses that grow on the heath.

    Bob makes a good point about dogs. Even in the open deer will allow people, individuals or small groups, to approach quite close and, watchfully, contunue grazing while you point your camera at them. A dog, even if well-behaved and quiet, at ten times the distance will agitate them. They do tend to flee into the trees, but they can do that equally well or better in birch and oak woods.

    I suspect the people kicking up such a fuss now are the same as, or in some way related to, those who, back in 1970-ish, railed hysterically against the fences erected to protect the young trees because it restricted their right to roam on common land, despite assurances that they were temporary.

    It is ironic that there was such indignation (rightfully) about cutting rangers’ jobs and yet they are not allowed to get on with the excellent work they do. Well done to them for getting the funds; I know what a nightmare such processes can be. And more power to their elbows!

  5. Rob says:

    Agree with all your points here Bob, except for the presence of hares on the common.

    Unfortunately I don’t think the culling requirement is a side issue, the over-population is a major problem, which is why they are now being seen more often in the area. Poaching and traffic aren’t doing the job, though sadly, I can see a horrible upturn in the poaching as the herds get nearer the conurbations – it’s usually the townies who are behind it.

    As for hares, if they are present I’d be amazed if they revealed themselves in such an environment. Their secretive nature leads to them normally only being observed at a safe distance across open/cultivated land, which is why they don’t keep all their young in one place and are mostly spotted traveling from one to another, and never in a straight line.

    • FWIW I saw hares boxing I the pasture behind the rising sun in 2010; I’ve seen one also on the old Highfields. But it’s not regular. Staffs WEBS has a few sightings, but I do agree it’s not regular territory. Suspect they’d crosses the old track from the fields of Big House to the West.


  6. Pedro says:

    Deer to ‘disappear’ through heath plan at Brownhills Common

    Would I be alone in thinking this is a pretty irresponsible headline by the Express and Star?

    Many people just glance across headlines and chose which to read, however it may stick in the mind.

  7. Barry Carpenter says:

    As always, Newspaper writers have very little understanding on many of the subjects they write about. They use sound bites of others who have an axe to grind to sell papers and keep their jobs, they have no reason to really care about the story other then getting there wages at the end of the month.
    As to the work on the common, yes conifers are not a native lowland tree and where they have been planted in large numbers, the number of native species dramatically decreases. Just walk under a conifer canopy to see just how little light reaches the floor and how barren a landscape conifer mono culture produces! This is simple a great opportunity to reclaim the natural heathland and all of the associated wildlife.

  8. jesus christ on brownhills common says:

    Oh deer me indeed funny how conifers become such a pressing issue when the timber is required for another project gotta keep them biomass boilers fed

    And as always the devil is in the detail one biomass boiler leads to another and before you know it your burning Ash & Oak to keep up with demand

    • Nice to see the conspiracy theorists are in the house…

      Again, you don’t need to invent a new ID each time. Since you’ve previously stated you wish for greenspaces to be left untended to become wasteland, I think we know where you’re coming from.


    • Pedro says:

      Staffordshire Council say…

      “the wood fuel project is a fantastic innovation…”

      Now there’s me thinking the idea had been around for thousands of years!

  9. Hi Bob,
    As always, you have researched and your conclusions are well thought out. As you know, I walk a little bit with my small dog and I love to see the deer, I actively look for them and the daft boy just walks past. They do notice him, as you say but for me this is a great thing because they stop and watch and I can see their faces and the way they react to things they fear.
    I fully support any methods to get the countryside back to it’s deciduous past

    • Jeepboy says:

      I fully concur with HtB – I always know when deer are present on the common as my dog immediately goes into a sniffing frenzy – but he too totally ignores them when he finds them ( after all they are massive compared to him ) and for their part although they seem aware of us they never view us a such a threat for them to be spooked …….. “Jesus Christ” think too many people have watched Benson on YouTube 🙂

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  16. Richard says:

    I’ve looked at the various views posted on here, and my stance is that i love our common (the rough common as i know it) and dont want it to change. i have fond memories playing over there as a kid in the 70’s, have since travelled the world in my career, and finally decided of all the places in the world to settle to come right back to my roots here in Brownhills. I regularly enjoy walking the dog over there, and like the fact that its our bit of countryside right on our doorstep. My kids go to Watling street school, and the natural beauty surrounding it is absolutely fantastic. I am very concerned about any plans to change our beautiful common, and am too long in the tooth to take things on trust. I will monitor this situation very closely.

    These are my views, which i am fully entitled too.

    Kind regards

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