Our vision for Blakeshall Common and Kinver Edge
We have an ambitious proposal for heathland restoration at Blakeshall Common, and this page sets out to explain how and why we’ll be delivering this project. It also talks about the local feedback we have had so far on the proposal and the changes we have made in light of this public consultation.
Lowland heath at Kinver Edge
Lowland heath is a wildlife-rich habitat that buzzes with wildlife. The landscape is made up of plants such as heather and gorse, with large field-grown oaks and silver birch trees scattered throughout and sandy tracks crisscrossing the landscape. The structure is varied – some parts feel almost wooded whilst other areas are more open and offer far-reaching views, and this dynamic, changing landscape is part of the natural composition of a healthy, varied heath.
Why is lowland heath so important?
Lowland heath supports a diversity of specialist wildlife including reptiles, acid grassland plants, specialist invertebrates and birds of open habitats. Some of these species only occur in heathland and their populations have declined. Some species now only exist in isolated populations that are prone to extinction and the UK has a special obligation to conserve this habitat, given that it supports about 20% of the lowland heath in Europe (JNCC).
We are working to restore Blakeshall Common as an area of traditional lowland heath. The gains for wildlife of restoring the heathland would be huge, particularly for animals that are increasingly rare in the UK.
Currently a conifer plantation, this area offers an opportunity to deliver a restoration project that will not only provide a home for wildlife, but also ensure that it can continue to be accessed and enjoyed for recreational purposes.
The National Trust has received the support of local Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, and Natural England, amongst others, for this important nature restoration plan.
Plans for the project
To create the heathland, the Trust plans to fell some of the current non-native conifer plantation, which was planted as a crop and is reaching the end of its life. We aim to fell approximately 19 hectares (47 acres) of conifer plantation in over 10 years and in two separate phases. This equates to just under a third of the conifer plantation.
Many trees, like oaks and silver birch will remain, as will some of the conifers such as Scots pines, to provide diversity of habitat, for example to create corridors for bats. Keeping some of the conifers will also provide woodland walks and screen the surrounding views, allowing more space and light to help young native trees to grow. Any proceeds from the sale of the timber will go straight back into caring for Kinver Edge and Blakeshall Common.
The heath will be grazed by traditional longhorn cattle at certain times of the year, a docile breed, to maintain the heath and create a rich habitat structure, similarly to other areas of heath on Kinver Edge.
Through the course of public consultation, we listened to many different people and modified our plans to accommodate local feeling, whilst still ensuring we can deliver these important gains for nature and wildlife.
Following the consultation, we reduced the area of heathland restoration, as we found that some people were concerned about the pace and scale of change. We also amended our plans to keep the bridleway out of the grazed area and to ensure horse riders don't need to use any gates to ride the bridleway or to complete a full off-road circuit.
You can click here to a view a map of the final proposal that indicates how the proposal has changed over the course of consultation.
Frequently asked questions
Why is it necessary to graze cattle?
Native cattle breeds, such a Longhorns, are traditionally used to graze heathland and wood pasture because they create a dynamic, mosaic habitat with differing layers of fauna as well as removing scrub and enhancing the heathland habitat. They also reduce the need for mechanical intervention in the landscape and help to control invasive species such as Himalayan Balsam.
Will this affect the bridleway/horse access?
The majority of horse access routes will not enter the heathland restoration area. Following feedback from local horse riders, the legal bridleway that crosses the land will not enter the heathland area and there will be a full off-road circuit that riders can do without passing through any gates or grazing.
One short stretch of the permissive horse trail will enter the heathland area for those riders who want to use it, and there will be a gate at each end for riders to use.
Will this affect the bike track/freeride park?
No. We will retain the trees in the freeride park; the heathland restoration area does not include the park.
I walk my dog/ride my horse here regularly and I’m concerned about the cattle being present?
The longhorn cattle are owned by the same grazier who already grazes a large area of the land we look after on Kinver Edge. There will be a low stocking density and no calves or breeding males, and whilst we’d always advise people to be vigilant around any livestock, this breed of cattle is usually docile. This herd spend their lives around the public and are very used to being with people, dogs and horses.
There are also plenty of woodland trails that don’t enter the grazed area at all – some that are permissive horse tracks and others that are just for walkers.
Will I be able to run my dog off a lead?
Where there are other people, horses, dogs and livestock we would expect people to keep their dogs under close control, and by keeping dogs to the path this also minimises the disturbance to sensitive wildlife such as ground nesting birds. There are many areas on Blakeshall Common and Kinver Edge where dogs can run more freely, for example on the open grassland areas.
What about the current wildlife that lives in the conifers?
The majority of species that live in the conifer plantation will thrive in the heathland, and many will benefit from the creation of several kilometres of 'woodland edge' habitat. We are however leaving in over half of the conifers to provide corridors for bats. Overall, we will see an increase in biodiversity and the number of species that live here, and conservation organisations such as RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, and Butterfly Conservation support these plans.
Why are you cutting down trees when we are experiencing climate change?
As an organisation we are planting trees and reforesting large areas across the country, but at Blakeshall Common there is a rare opportunity to restore wildlife-rich heathland to improve biodiversity. By improving biodiversity, we create more resilient ecosystems that can better withstand the impacts of climate change, ensuring a wide variety of plants and animals have room to thrive.
We welcome conversations about our proposal, so please do contact us at any time on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01384 872553. Please be aware that as a charity we have limited resources and as a small team we may take a few days to respond.
We want to hear any feedback you may have and would be happy to meet and share our plans in person. We would also like to meet immediate neighbours to specifically discuss the exact location of access gates, so please do get in touch with us if you are interested in looking at this.
The fragile heathland habitat at Kinver Edge is home to many rare species, with more familiar plants and animals also found in the surrounding woodland.
Kinver Edge is home to both the Kinver Hillfort and the Kinver Rock Houses. Find out more about the history of this unique area in the West Midlands.
Kinver Edge is a two pawprint rated place. It's a great place to come and exercise with your dog, with miles of footpaths and open countryside for you to explore.
From looking after rare lowland heath to managing woodland for butterflies, discover some of the important work the ranger teams at Kinver Edge do.