Hartlebury Common has recently been revitalised thanks to a remarkable contribution from local volunteers.
The Common, near Stourport, is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) as it is a lowland heathland of considerable national and European importance.
Natural England, the Government’s advisor on nature conservation, access and recreation, provides grant assistance, through the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme, towards the enhancement of the site for wildlife, public access and the historic environment. Because of the Common's important status, Natural England periodically carries out a 'Condition Assessment'.
When Hartlebury Common was inspected in 2009, it was assessed by Natural England to be in 'unfavourable condition, declining', meaning the site was in poor condition.
In 2010, Worcestershire County Council introduced cattle grazing on the site and continued with a programme of tree and scrub removal in order to restore the valuable lowland heathland habitat.
The site is currently being grazed by English Longhorn cattle, a native rare breed with a docile temperament which thrive on the natural vegetation that occurs on the Common. All of the animals present on site have previously grazed other sites with public access and are inspected on a regular basis by the grazier.
Natural England visited Hartlebury for another inspection in recent months and now rate the majority of the Common as being in 'favourable condition'. This turnaround is thanks to support from Natural England, as well as all the staff and volunteers who have worked on the site.
The contribution of volunteers has been particularly significant, with members of the public and a number of ex-offenders on the site performing tasks including scrub removal, re-seeding of heather, fencing repairs and fly-tip removal.
Cllr Lucy Hodgson, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Localism and Communities said: "This is brilliant news as it means that the site is now in good condition for the public. I would like to offer a special thanks to all of the volunteers who have dedicated their time and effort to improving the Common for the good of everybody. This really demonstrates the fantastic generosity of spirit of the people of Worcestershire, offering their time to make the best of our public spaces for local communities."