natural england


Saving the Cornish moors from the barbed wire.

The three strand variety, that is insidiously snaking around moors and imprisoning areas of heathland under the banner of bio-diverification. I generally aim to be upbeat and promote Cornwall in a positive way - but not this month. In fact, it's the opposite. The tourist information should read 'Welcome to the moorland compounds, you can be sure that around every bend you will be met with miles of barbed wire fencing and long horn cattle excluding you from places that once boasted being an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Hence, further to a feature on national TV with Ian Cooke, a spokesman from Save Penwith Moors, I am adding my endorsement to all they hope to achieve. They are spearheading a campaign to remove barbed wire and cattle from moors in West Cornwall which has been installed under the bio-diversity scheme, HEATH, which is a clumsy acronym for a Natural England led initiative 'aiming to restore neglected heathland landscapes in a sustainable way to achieve it's full potential for wildlife and people.' However, there is considerable evidence indicating widespread public disagreement on this method of heathland restoration, which has been implemented with apparent lack of consultation and a predetermined management plan. The usual response from the environmental 'professionals' is a dismissive attitude that the public fail to understand their policy.

barbed wire on the moor moor trampled down

The scheme covers areas of West Penwith, Goonhilly Downs and pockets of heath on The Lizard. I too have been attempting to preserve a little piece of wilderness from Natural England's madness: Gold Gothan Common is a designated SSSI, where I have delighted in it's natural state. In February 2007, a Planning Application notice was posted in the lane, which to summarise, stated that the area was to be enclosed with 1.7km of fencing and that cattle grids were going to be inserted. I lodged a complaint with DEFRA in Bristol and after considerable correspondence with the Common Land Branch of DEFRA and Natural England in Truro. the polemic received nothing other than 'management consultant speak' condescending platitudes...

Natural England's unnatural intervention.

My arguments are identical to those succinctly presented by the Penwith group e.g. cost, inconclusive case studies, aesthetically hideous, harmful to dogs, horses and wild animals. I gave up complaining in October 2008 because the wire was installed and 'managing' Gold Gothan became a euphemism for KEEP OUT... and every time I looked at the wodge of correspondence I had an urge to reach for the Vodka bottle. However, the terms of the Planning Application have been disregarded at least in the spirit of the consent, as the Biodiversity Project Manager stated 'there will be no negative impact on public access to the common'. A year on, thanks to Natural England's unnatural intervention, a small piece of Cornwall that was a tranquil haven for wildlife has disintegrated into an inaccessible wasteland. The gorse and small trees have been ripped out and left in random piles, the informal accesses have been wired across, the barbed wire is so close to the hedge the firebreak no longer exists and the ground is rutted and eroded by cattle.... and this has been allowed to happen on heathland that NATURAL ENGLAND agree is healthy!

I'm not a botanist or biologist/ecologist/environmentalist, but I am a nature lover and I have to question this one dimensional approach when there are other answers such as burning and mechanical removal of the scrub. I know this works because I have been walking dogs over this heath for many years and both of these methods have been used successfully by Natural England's previous incarnation as English Nature. Within a year the orchids were profuse, overwintering snipe had returned and buzzards and owls were hunting for prey. What are the chances of survival with the land being trampled by cattle for the next decade?

We need to be part of the landscape that nature has created and walk in freedom because the countryside is more wild and more ancient than civilised life. This bureaucratic tampering makes me uneasy - the wildness of Cornish moors is meant to be untamed. Natural England should be handling this with tact, discretion and good sense, balance and empathy - not depriving us of what is ours by right. The desolate autumn terrain, entwined with wire and puddled with mud, may be reminiscent of the Somme but all is not quiet on the western front, forces are mobilising to fight this battle. Please add your support to

Natural England's mission statement is "to conserve and enhance the natural environment for its intrinsic value and the well being and enjoyment of people"... now, that's a laugh!!

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