Leicester Mercury

Protecting wildlife Jewels but not everyone is happy...


- By FINVOLA DUNPHY finvola.dunphy@reachplc.com @finvoladun­phy mailbox@leicesterm­ercury.co.uk

PARTS of Beacon Hill country park are to be blocked off from public to allow wildlife to flourish – a move that has prompted a complaint.

A number of rare ground-nesting birds have been identified in the area around Jewels Hill, prompting the county council to restrict public access, just as lockdown measures are being lifted.

One resident has claimed the park is being turned into a conservati­on area and, while the council says it understand­s the “frustratio­n”, the move is necessary to protect the wildlife.

A recent notice was put up at the site, near Woodhouse Eaves, stopping people from entering certain areas due to “ground-nesting birds”.

As of yesterday, Jewels Hill has been cut off from the public, a situation that will last until the end of summer.

The notice, which is signed by Beacon Hill Rangers, reads: “The heath-land of Beacon Hill Country Park is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its ecological and geological importance.

“For conservati­on purposes, it is necessary for us to restrict access onto Jewels Hill from April 1 until late summer to protect the groundnest­ing birds which use this area for breeding and to allow the vegetation to recover and flourish.”

But one resident has criticised the council, saying they are “slowly making the park a conservati­on area”.

Richard Everard, from Quorn, said: “I doubt that closing off this area from the public is likely to increase the number of nesting birds.

“The county council should stick to maintainin­g a country park and leave bodies such as the Wildlife Trusts to manage conservati­on areas.”

During lockdown over the past year, there has been an increase in wildlife at county parks due to fewer people visiting – and this is especially true in the number of rare ground-nesting birds in the Jewels Hill area.

Richard Hunt, the head of country parks and estates at the county council, said: “We are aware of the concerns raised by members of the public and can sympathise with their frustratio­n, especially as restrictio­ns begin to ease. “However, our actions to temporaril­y restrict access to Jewels Hill will preserve the wildlife and help the park’s ecological environmen­t to continue to flourish.”

Mr Hunt said a number of birds are associated with the Jewels Hill heath-land, including nightjars, yellowhamm­ers, skylarks, willow warblers, hobbys, tree pipits and meadow pipits, along with reptiles such as the common lizard, adders and slow worms.

Mr Hunt said: “We have decided to temporaril­y close this small area this year during the ground bird nesting season, to see if the birds return.

“The protection of the county’s green spaces enables local wildlife to flourish and is all part of the council’s commitment to deliver a greener future for Leicesters­hire.

“The country parks service has taken the decision to close Jewels Hill until late July/early August, once the birds have departed.

“The rest of the park will be open as usual and we hope people will continue to visit and enjoy all the site has to offer.”

■ Is the council right to restrict access? Share your views with others by emailing a letter to:

The council should stick to maintainin­g a park and leave Wildlife Trust to manage conservati­on Richard Everard

 ??  ?? HAVEN: Beacon Hill country park
HAVEN: Beacon Hill country park

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