Working to protect and enhance the Lickey Hills and their environs
You will be aware that Phytophthora ramorum was identified several months ago in larch trees on Beacon Hill. As a consequence, considerable felling has been taking place on Beacon Hill and in the area above the duck ponds. The felling is carried out under the auspices of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Forestry Commission. It is never pleasant to see such large scale felling and the damage that it does but sadly it is necessary to try and stop the further spread of the disease.
Since the initial Covid-19 lockdown the Country Park has been increasingly used by mountain bikers. Although we can see the attraction of the terrain to these thrill seekers they are causing damage and nuisance. Many hurtle down existing footpaths posing an obvious danger to walkers as well as damaging the surface of the paths. They have also created new trails, tracks and in places earthworks. There is considerable damage being done to the flora on these new trails. They have a detrimental impact on wildlife habitats, tree roots and the environment in general.
It is clearly a difficult issue to monitor and control but Society committee members are working with the Rangers to tackle the problem. One possible action being considered is the removal of the ‘hurdles’ which the cyclists have built without permission. Strictly speaking, the riding of bikes in the Country Park is only permitted on the bridle paths.
Visitor Centre – The Centre in Warren Lane is currently closed and is likely to remain so into the foreseeable future due to the need for social distancing and issues relating to the café and kitchen. However, whilst closed, work has been taking place on the much needed refurbishment of the toilets.
Visitors – Due to a combination of the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 and the glorious weather in May, there has been an estimated 30% increase in the number of visitors to Birmingham Parks. The increase in the number of visitors to the Lickeys is believed to be much higher than this and as a consequence, a number of problems have arisen.
Cars and car parking – during very busy periods at weekends and over the Bank Holidays, the various car parks were full. This led to an increase in inconsiderate on-road parking which restricted access for larger vehicles including emergency vehicles. On at least one occasion, the police found it necessary to close Monument Lane. On one day, 20 parking tickets were issued by police to cars parked along Monument Lane.
Litter – with the increase in the number of visitors, it is almost inevitable that there will be a surge in the amount of litter. This has certainly been the case on the Lickeys. The situation has improved at the major locations since the litter picking teams have returned. Throughout the lockdown, LHS litter pickers have been at the forefront of volunteer pickers who have been collecting litter in the Country Park and their work is invaluable. If you are walking on the Lickeys, perhaps you could consider doing a little litter picking, bearing in mind the obvious safety precautions including the need for gloves and hand sanitisers.
Fires – there have been many fires in the Country Park in recent weeks due to the dry ground and the illegal and irresponsible use of disposable BBQ’s. During one week there were eight fires on the Lickeys, a number of which required the fire service to extinguish them. The largest blaze was tackled by three fire engines and their crews who were needed to extinguish a fire in 100 square metres of undergrowth. The Rangers and the Emergency Services have urged people not to use BBQ’s on the Lickeys but to use them responsibly at home where there is less chance of harm to the environment or endangering vulnerable wildlife. People have also been urged to take their litter home with them as discarded glass can magnify sunlight and Photo: The aftermath of a fire – Courtesy of the Rangers
Mountain bikers – there has been an increase in the number of bikers visiting the Lickeys to get their thrills on the steep boulder strewn slopes of the Country Park. They are using many paths, large and small and posing a danger to walkers as well as damaging the paths, trees, flora and fauna.
Golf Course – the course was closed during the early stages of the lockdown but since the partial lifting of restrictions, the course has opened again. Head Greenkeeper, Dave Collins reports that bookings are currently at a very high level. The café at the golf club is open for simple take away snacks and drinks.
Public Events – all organised events in City parks and open spaces are currently cancelled until the end of August – that may of course be extended.
Car Park Closing Times – to try and reduce some of the problems that have been occurring on the Hills, both the Monument Lane and Warren Lane car parks are now being closed at 8.30pm. Only time will tell if the early closure of the car parks will have any effect in minimising the problems.
© 2015 The Lickey Hills Society