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:
- 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.
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.
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.
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.