Heathland restoration rationale and proposal for Kinver Edge
Within Kinver Edge is a pocket of wilderness that buzzes with life. It hums with bees and butterflies by day, lizards bask in the sun, and at night bats swoop through the air hunting moths whilst woodcock forage on the ground.
These remnant pockets of heathland are rich in wildlife, but they are only a few small islands of space; a fraction of the healthy habitat that until very recently used to spread across much more of the landscape here. After the war it was planted over with non-native conifer trees – a plantation designed to one day be felled for timber. This crop is now nearing the end of its life, and so we have an exciting opportunity to restore the heath that once was, to create valuable space for nature and to give people the chance to experience a richer, wilder environment.
The gains for wildlife of restoring the heathland would be huge, and in particular for animals that are increasingly rare in the UK. Kinver Edge still holds two small populations of adders, however they are fragmented, separated by the plantation. Nationally adders are at risk of extinction – but we could provide them with space to thrive here. We are already seeing wildlife return to another area of former conifer plantation that was restored 5 years ago - tree pipit, slow worm, common lizard and green tiger beetle are all making homes here again. Years ago iconic species such as woodlark and nightjar used to be common here, and again nationally they have faced terrible crisis in population decline, but we could create space for them here and hopefully they may return. Fellow conservation groups including the Wildlife Trusts, Amphibian and Reptile Group, Natural England and many more have voiced their support for these proposals, and agree that we need to try to do our bit to help these struggling species and that at Kinver Edge we have a great opportunity.
To restore a healthy, thriving heath at Blakeshall, and connect up these islands of heathland that do remain, we would fell many of the conifer crop trees and allow the heather seeds that lay dormant under the earth to naturally regenerate. Lots of trees would be kept - natives such as oak, birch and rowan, and some pockets of conifers too – to create a really biodiverse, varied landscape and to ensure views are protected. Traditional longhorn cattle would graze the heath, and some of the woodland, for around half the year because they create a dynamic ecosystem, as they already do elsewhere on Kinver Edge. A docile species, they are favoured by access organisations for being good with horses, dogs and people. By having fewer enclosures there would be less internal fencing, and the whole place would feel more open.
Kinver Edge is loved by many locals and heavily visited by all sorts of people – from dog walkers, to cyclists, horse riders and wildlife-lovers. They will still be able to enjoy access across Kinver Edge, with a mixture of sandy paths perfect for trotting along, and a surfaced route that is better suited to those with buggies or bikes. Where we are introducing gates we are doing so following advice from the British Horse Society. A mixed landscape of sunny, open heathland with sweeping views, and areas of shady woodland, provides miles of varied trails. We would like to take the chance to improve on some of the current trails, changing routes and improving signage according to the feedback of local people, to make this a place that everyone can explore and enjoy at their own pace. At the same time, we want to leave a legacy of a richer environment when so much nature here in the UK is currently under threat and ourselves and our children are become disconnected from the natural world. We hope to give the next generation the chance to one day hear the churring of nightjar on Kinver Edge