Yateley Common Consultation.
Sarah Palmer writes to Jim White, Footprint Ecology, who is carrying out the consultation
- I'm fully aware that the Yateley Rangers are intending to go ahead with asking for planning permission to erect fencing around the entire Yateley Common regardless of Footprint Ecology's proposals.
- I'm not sure whose time has been wasted the most - yours or ours but it does seem to make a mockery of public opinion to be quite so blatant about their intentions.
Says Sarah Palmer
Dear Jim White,
I'm sending this third and final feedback email to you even though I'm fully aware, after attending last night's very interesting Yateley Common Management Committee, that the Yateley Rangers are intending to go ahead with asking for planning permission from the Planning Inspectorate to erect fencing around the entire Yateley Common regardless of Footprint Ecology's proposals; which are allegedly going to be based on the outcome of feedback given by the public whom you've consulted on behalf of your client Hampshire County Council. I'm not sure whose time has been wasted the most - yours or ours but it does seem to make a mockery of public opinion to be quite so blatant about their intentions.
The numbers of the three rare species was reported on but there was no mention of how many breeding pairs the land in question can sustain without issue for the birds themselves. Surely this figure is known and is one that could be used as both source for success of conservation grazing target and celebration in years to come?
I keep hearing how the common has been heathland for 100's of years and only been lost since the last World War. This heathland status has been accredited to the presence of grazing livestock. I've seen a document that shows 1,594 head of livestock were allowed on the common under the 1965 Act (and presumably before then too) and that those beasts were five different species - horses & ponies (157), donkeys (34), cows (205), goats (23), pigs (515) and sheep (660). That's selective and close crop grazers, ruminants,browsers, vegetarian and omnivores - all eating different species of vegetation to different heights and producing different manure.
Bearing in mind you have previously said that dogs' mess is of the wrong Ph for happy heather growing I feel obliged to ask if either low-level or even extensive single species grazing is going to adequately recreate, maintain and support the bird friendly eco-system your clients seek? You have previously mentioned the success of the grazing on the New Forest but that has multiple species on it, not just cows. Whoever determined that Yateley Common was originally created and therefore could be recreatedly purely through the grazing of cattle didn't do their agricultural history homework very well.
Something else that has been confusing me is this constant reference to the Common only being wooded through modern neglect. If that is the case why do 22 commoners have the right to pasture, 20 have the right to collect wood (Estovers) and 3 the right to turn their pigs (presumably that's the 515 pigs although those numbers seem a bit out of sync to me) out to eat acorns and beech mast and a further 17 have the right to collect turf (Turbary)? These figures were taken from Defra http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/protected/commons/ where Yateley Common is referred to as a 'partially wooded unit". And yet a large part of the proposal map I have shows significant woodland clearance across all sections of the common, in particular around the boundaries and roadsides, which I would have thought acted as wildlife corridors. Perhaps you ought to recommend your clients' apply for a woodland restoration / management grant instead of a heathland one. Especially as road research indicates traffic goes even faster when there are cleared verges either side and we already have a problem of speeding traffic on Cricket Hill.
Likewise, last night it was suggested that deer are used to graze instead of cattle but this idea was rejected on the grounds they don't eat the right vegetaion. I find that odd because the Forestry Commission in local forests have their culling towers lcoated over heather corridorsAnd why would the FC cull if it wasn't because deer eat young trees?
Finally, may I draw your attention to an article by a Forestry www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/INFD-6CHC7G which clearly indicates that, whilst cattle grazing has some benefits, silver birch and pine is not the preferred food of cattle. If you look elsewhere on the internet you can also see that eating pine needles causes cows to abort their calves as several types of pine are considered poisonous to livestock.) Refering back to the Foresty Commission at Alice Holt's article - grazing by cattle may reduce purple grass but they also increase the tree seedling density whilst reducing the diversity of trees in the areas they graze so you are simply recreating your own problems. Which is probably why, despite the ranger's personal opinion to the contrary, I think Castle Bottom on the whole looks as scrubby now as it did when I use to ride there in the mid 80's. The work they've done on Yateley Country Park in contrast and without the 'benefit' of cattle grazing shows much better results and I really hope your recommendations will be to continue that best practice throughout the common.
Sarah Palmer's horse, Lilly, doesn't
think much of the proposals either >>