Brownhills Common: please join the debate


I care passionately about Brownhills Common; I grew up, playing here, and it’s where I learned to recognise tree and animal species. It’s a very special place.

I haven’t forgotten the issue of Brownhills Common and the heathland restoration works, and nor will I let it slip – but the voice of the conservationists deserves to be heard properly. Most of the points raised by those opposing the project are effectively and precisely dealt with by the experts, and they should be listened to. With that in mind, Walsall Council and the Countryside Services team are unveiling displays, publicity materials and public walks to explain the issues involved.

With this in mind, I thought I’d draw readers attention to a display currently erected in Brownhills Library at the Parkview Centre in Brownhills. Here you can find out what’s planned and what the options are for undertaking the work.

Please take the opportunity to approach this with an open mind and explore both sides, not just the scaremongering. If you don’t listen to me, listen to a real wildlife enthusiast and nature lover like Chaz Mason. I’d say that neither I nor Chaz are generally considered fans of Walsall Council, but on this, they have a point.

Here’s Walsall’s latest press release on the subject.

Have your say on Brownhills Common restoration

Countryside lovers, supporters and visitors are being urged to find out more about plans to boost historic heathland at Brownhills Common.

Management plans for the next decade at the popular countryside site are currently on display in Brownhills Library.

People are being encouraged to have a look at the display, give their views and raise any questions they might have – particularly in light of concerns raised so far about the felling of trees at the common.

There will also be a public meeting and a series of guided walks arranged.

Brownhills Common is part of the Chasewater and Southern Staffordshire Coalfield Heaths Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The SSSI is important for its lowland heath and various wetland habitats, which Walsall Council has a legal obligation to manage appropriately.

As part of a ten-year Environmental Stewardship agreement between Walsall Council and Natural England, young trees and scrubs will be removed from open areas of existing heathland and pre-determined areas of conifer trees, scrub and bramble will be removed and restored to heathland.

The site is characterised by lowland heathland, which is incredibly rare, with just 198 hectares remaining across Birmingham and the Black Country.

This extension of heathland will ensure plants and wildlife continue to thrive and will also encourage red deer to find food and shelter.

Heathland habitats cover around 12.2 hectares of Brownhills Common with the rest made up of woodland and other habitats including grassland, bramble, scrub, weedy areas and paths.

Under the proposals the area covered by heathland plants would rise from 36 to 60 per cent by 2022.

Tree felling is due to start this Autumn, and any trees to be removed will be checked for bats first.

Assurance has also been given that no mature native broadleaved trees will be felled.

This work will result in slightly less than half of the woodland area being removed and about 7.3 hectares of heathland restored.

Options for the work include felling some trees each year or more in fewer years or clearing areas at once or gradually over a number of years.

Councillor Anthony Harris, portfolio holder for leisure and culture with Walsall Council Coalition, said: ‘People understandably become very anxious when there is a suggestion of tree felling.

‘But the last thing our countryside services team would support is something that would be detrimental to such an important site. They are passionate about Walsall’s green spaces and committed to ensuring their future.

‘The proposed tree felling and heathland extension is entirely for the benefit of Brownhills Common and it is vital that everyone who cares about the site understands this.

‘I urge people to take the time to see the display, find out all the facts and ask the experts if they have any questions or concerns.’

Lowland heathland has declined significantly over the last two centuries and in England it is estimated only one sixth of the heathland present in 1800 remains due to various factors including agriculture and development.

It is the primary habitat for rare birds such as the nightjar and Dartford warbler and reptiles such as the sand lizard and smooth snake.

People should send their views or questions to Walsall Countryside Services, Environmental Depot, 200 Pelsall Road, Brownhills, Walsall, telephone 01922 653344 or e-mail

Details of the restoration can also be found at

Approval for the work will also be sought from the Forestry Commission.

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11 Responses to Brownhills Common: please join the debate

  1. The green man says:

    None of the species listed on the council website are native to lowland heath and for good reason lowland heath is itself is not a natural environment of the six species listed only the green tiger beetle is native to such an environment that being upland heath.
    Why the push to retain a false environment when the original and natural woodland ecosystem could be reinstated so easily by replanting native broad leaves.

  2. Countryside Kev says:

    The Green Man, yes English heaths are the product of human activity i.e. clearfelling of natural forest and woodland vegetation over many centuries. Heathland needs to continue to be managed for it to remain as such, otherwise it will succeed to woodland, albeit not necessarily the original woodland type depending on local seed source. Broadleaved woodland is the natural climax vegetation for viturally all of our terrestrial habitats. Furthermore, apart from mountain tops and some coasts, none of our habitats are purely natural – all have been affected by humans for centuries and will continue to be for many more. We have inherited a selection of semi-natural habitats and need to manage them for the wildlife they support and the pleasure they give us.

    The six species on the website are native to lowland heath, though several do also occur in other habitats. They are examples of wildlife that heathlands support – we could have seleceted other species. The point is that these and other species will suffer should heathland not be managed appropriately, but would benefit by removing some of the non-native conifer plantations on Brownhills Common and restoring those areas to heathland.

  3. Mickysix says:

    I am old enough to remember when the trees were planted on the common. I went to Watling St school as i lived in Pear Tree Lane. You used to be able to see the traffic on the Chester road from the playground, and feel the cold winds which blew across the open space. As a boy i helped put the fires out in the summer on the Common the other side of The Motor Sales, where the Black path is. I would not like to see the common open like that again, however i recently visited to see for myself what all the trouble is about. If it means that a few of those awful Green things go ‘So What!’ It don’t look very smart now. I don.t suppose that Sir Barry remembers that time. I am not a nature freak, but i remember going across the other side of the A5, from school and finding newts and frog spawn etc when the colliery was there. I have great memories of those days and The common would not have those memories for today’s youth in future years. This debate would not be happening if previous councils had maintained the common more.

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