Campaign to reduce felling at Yateley CommonBy Laura Nightingale
February 19, 2013
USERS of Yateley Common are calling for a reduced scale wildlife conservation project in a bid to save some of the thousands of mature trees set to be axed.
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust has started transforming 20 hectares of land from dark forestry plantation to open heathland to support populations of the rare birds nightjar, woodlark and Dartford warbler. The project was announced at the end of last year and contractors have started to clear some of the trees, leaving copses of birch and willow and old, gnarly pine trees.
However, some walkers, dog owners and people living close to the common describe the felling as an act of vandalism.
Tony Beveridge, who lives on the common, is leading a campaign to see the heathland project reduced and has written to MP Sir Gerald Howarth for support.
Mr Beveridge said: “The work on clearing the trees is moving on at a pace with the lumberjacks cutting and burning most.
“Apparently the only ones to be saved are those sporting a red and white tape and you will notice that there are not many.
“The trees are being cleared along with all the holly, shrubbery, gorse and heather, most being burned and left burning unattended overnight.
“The changes, I believe, are little short of vandalism with no possibility of restoration in our life time. The tree felling is indiscriminate with oak and other mature British trees all suffering the same fate.”
Mr Beveridge is concerned that the “barren wasteland” that will be left will be liable to flooding and will burn quicker in times of drought.
He believes the trees helped to block road noise and as a result of felling the habitat of deer, woodpeckers, owls and cuckoos would be lost “in the small hope of attracting the likes of the Dartford warbler”.
He added: “The children are taught in school of the environmental impact made by farmers trying to feed their families and cutting into the rainforests, and on their door step we are doing the same, for less tangible reasons.”
The wildlife trust’s project involves the felling of conifer trees on Hartfordbridge Flats, south of the A30 opposite Blackbushe Airport, to create ideal conditions for heather growth. This land is part of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area, designated for its heathland birds.
Wildlife experts predict that the rare birds, which nest on the ground, will start nesting in the spring following the tree clearance.
Alex Cruickshank, of the Wildlife Trust, said: “The land is considered to be in ‘unfavourable declining’ condition by Natural England – ‘bad and getting worse’.”
He said all the timber would be put to good use and the remaining twigs and branches would be chipped and used to generate electricity.
“This will leave a clear landscape on which heather will start to germinate from surviving seeds almost immediately,” he added. “Rare heathland plants and insects will discover the area and in about 20 years the heathland will have fully recovered.”