Group defends gorse clearance plan

A GROUP behind plans to strip scrub and gorse from Suffolk's oldest heathland has defended its actions - amid fears any changes will ruin the countryside.

Craig Robinson

A GROUP behind plans to strip scrub and gorse from Suffolk's oldest heathland has defended its actions - amid fears any changes will ruin the countryside.

The Trustees of Rushmere Common want to restore the heath to its traditional landscape and remove overgrown bushes and trees.

Some members of Rushmere Golf Course - which uses part of the land in east Ipswich - are concerned the changes will have an adverse effect.

But last night Don Ayre, chairman of the trustees, said they had been in discussion with golf club bosses and any impact would be minimal.

“The centre of the common is very, very overgrown and in my opinion unattractive,” he said. “The plan is to remove some scrub trees and gorse and restore the traditional landscape. Very few nature trees will be touched.

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“I know there are concerns about the golf course but the impact should be minimal, if any.

“I realise that some people would like to see the heath left as it is but I don't think that's an option in the long term because parts of it will become unmanageable.

“We believe this project will give us a good baseline on which to manage for the next 10 or 20 years. We will concentrate our efforts on the centre - there will still be substantial scrub and gorse on the outskirts of the common.

“The centre is where we believe the greatest landscape and ecological benefits will come - it will encourage traditional heathland species to regenerate alongside flora and fauna.”

The project, which is expected to start this winter and will last for three years, has been backed by Suffolk Coastal District Council (SCDC), Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Natural England.

It is believed it will cost £99,500 - with £49,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £10,000 from the Suffolk Environmental Trust and £3,000 from SCDC making up some of the contributions.

Mr Ayre continued: “Not only will the landscape and ecology be enhanced, but local people will be able to enjoy and use the common more responsibly. Visitor numbers are likely to increase and we also want to try and provide more information about what the heath has to offer.

“We are working with local schools to get them involved and better informed about the common and we will also produce an owner's guide and describe its history.”

David Mason, Sandlings manager at Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said the work was very much in keeping in what they had done elsewhere in the county.

“We favour more open heath habitats,” he said. “They are rare habitats that we are trying to recreate and restore.”

A spokesman for Natural England said: “We were consulted for Rushmere Heath and gave our broad support to the desire to restore this area of heathland and we advised the need to consult with the golf club and other members of the public.”

FACTFILE: Rushmere Heath

- Rushmere Heath was originally owned by Lord of the Manor, the Marquis of Bristol, before a Commoners Committee was established in 1871.

- It was used as a place of execution - with around 100 recorded hangings between 1735 and 1797.

- It was also frequently used by the army and in 1804 Sir James Craig had 11,000 men under arms on the common.

- In 1895 the Ipswich Golf Club was established and paid £30 for 'non-interference' and cooperation - however it moved to its present location on Purdis Heath in 1929 and Rushmere Golf Club was formed.

- Day-to-day management of the common is the responsibility of the Trustees of Rushmere Common.

It is crossed by a number of footpaths, including the Sandlings Walk , which covers 60 miles from Ipswich to Southwold

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