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Why is Herefordshire ignored by national conservation bodies? RSPB, we need you.

20/01/2011 09:51:44

Bodenham Lake in Herefordshire, run by the local council.

RSPB - We have an ideal candidate for you

A quick scan of the location of large nature reserves in Britain reveals that the Midlands is, for some reason, poorly represented, and that Herefordshire in particular is virtually ignored. I have to declare an interest here, as a resident of Herefordshire, but that is why I have noticed this anomaly. As a very rural county, dissected by the glorious Wye Valley, perhaps there is no need, but this is changing. Development pressures and intensive farming are having an effect here too. Polytunnels are going up, trees are coming down (Often to be replaced with rows of ugly and non native conifers) and Hereford Council wants to build 8000 new homes to pay for a bypass that few people want.

Ideal candidate.
Stretton Sugwas Lakes, a disused gravel pit
and landfill site, is owned by the Duchy of 
Cornwall (Prince Charles). The lakes are not
currently a designated nature reserve, or
even open to the public, but are crying out
for the RSPB. HRH is a big fan of
conservation, so surely something could be

RSPB reserves - Midlands almost bare
A quick survey of locations of RSPB reserves shows that there is an alarming lack of bird life anywhere in the Midlands. The West Midlands (Including Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Birmingham and Herefordshire) has just 2 RSPB reserves, and the East Midlands (Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Rutland, and Leicestershire & Northamptonshire.) has just 2 as well. Essex has as many reserves as the whole of the midlands, as does Dorset, and Norfolk and Suffolk have 12 between them. Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Rutland (Though it does have the iconic Rutland Water), Leicestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Shropshire don't have a reserve between them.

And it isn't just RSPB reserves that are lacking, the "Futurescapes" plan for 40 new nature landscapes also pretty much gives the Midlands a body swerve.

Herefordshire - Almost ignored.
There are no RSPB reserves, no WWT reserves, and no National Parks. To my surprise, I have discovered that there are 3 National Nature Reserves in Herefordshire, covering just 200 hectares between them, but 2 of them are permanently closed to the public. Yet as the recent BTO research has showed, Herefordshire rates very highly for some birds. Is it the fact that Herefordshire and Shropshire are such wild places anyway (comparatively) that they don't merit a high level of protection? Or is it that they are tucked away and noone particularly bothers (Which, to be honest, a lot of Herefordshire people like). Surely some national recognition of these landscapes is long overdue?

Wildlife Tourism - Benefits
Until recently, it is probably true that much of Herefordshire didn't need protecting, but this has changed. Of course there are nature reserves in Herefordshire, some beautiful ones too. Titley Pools (Herefordshire Nature Trust), Bodenham Lake (Herefordshire Council), Haugh Woods, one of the top 10 butterfly sites in the UK (Forestry Commission) and plenty more. But outside of the county, few people know of these, and fewer would travel here to see them. Creating a few larger reserves, run by national bodies, would benefit the wildlife, but would also benefit the residents, not just by preserving their surroundings, but by creating some tourism and a little income. Income is the key, as Herefordians might just pay a bit more attention to what they are in danger of losing.

Stretton Sugwas Lake - AN ideal candidate for the RSPB 


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