A bid to rewild part of a popular beauty spot in Mere has been turned down by the local council after what have been called ‘alarmist’ objections from nearby residents.
Retired journalist Simon Moon had asked Mere Town Council to stop mowing parts of the field that leads up to the landmark Long Hill and nearby Castle Hill but others said the proposal could lead to seriously undesirable behaviour.
Mr Moon said: ‘In July the field was teeming with wild flowers and looking more beautiful than ever, then along came the ground staff and chopped it all down to a useless stubble.
‘I wrote to the council suggesting they could leave broad paths for dog walkers and allow the rest to go back to nature. This seemed to be what was happening but it turns out the paths were only a temporary measure.’
On Monday September 6 Mr Moon, who lives close to the field – officially known as the Kingsmere Open Space – spoke at the council meeting, saying rewilding was now part of a national trend.
Objections were raised by Kathy Herbert, Bill Coltham and his wife Sue, whose homes overlook the field. Mr Coltham said his investigations had come up with two explanations for ‘re-wilding’ – one being to leave nature to do its thing.
This would result in an unattractive field that would become inaccessible and would attract rubbish and dumping,’ he said.
The other version is total removal of existing grass and planting with wild flowers. This would require regular and fairly intensive maintenance and will increase costs to the council and ultimately to the community. Sue Coltham said she can see the number of people that use it every day and it gets used a lot and was especially well used during lockdown last year. She said that where grass is not mown then it is impossible to walk through.
Kathy Herbert said said that in areas where the grass had not been cut the nettles stretched to seven feet in height and the blackthorn was vicious.
Several councillors agreed there was a risk of encouraging antisocial behaviour and noted that they were often complimented on the state of the town’s open spaces.
Councillor Rodney Coward said: ‘If you want to see a field that has been rewilded then you need to look at the little field on the corner of the Gillingham Road junction, opposite the industrial estate which has been left to nature and is now full of thick shrubs, brambles and nettles.’
He pointed out that the Town Council planted copses of fruit and nut trees in the Kingsmere Open Space to help encourage the wildlife.
Councillors voted 10-0 against the plan with two abstentions. Later Mr Moon described some of the objections as ‘unnecessarily alarmist’. He added: ‘I’m disappointed but I’m not going to give up.’
Castle Hill is a scheduled ancient monument. The large flat-topped mound beside the A303 is all that remains of a castle built in the 13th Century by Richard, Earl of Cornwall.