SHOCKED members of the Friends of Bickerton Hill group say they have been misled by the National Trust after trees were felled at a picturesque site near the Sandstone Trail.
The trust have chopped down trees in the Cuckoo Rock Valley area as part of their heath regeneration project but temporarily stopped the initiative after a heated meeting between the two groups last month.
The FOBH group claim that members of the National Trust management had agreed to cut down trees in other locations of Bickerton Hill and save what they describe as “one of the most attractive and secluded woodland walks on the hill”.
But they have been shocked to learn that “dawn raid” visits to the Cuckoo Rock Valley, by contractors using chain saws, have resulted in more birch trees being felled.
A FOBH spokesperson said: “The present disagreement with the trust’s conduct of affairs on the hill is as a result of its intention to remove almost all of the birch trees from Cuckoo Rock Valley.
“This clearance was and has been done without any clear notice of the Trust’s intentions and without any consultation with local people or hill users and at a stage when the trust had almost reached its 50% target.
“In what can only be described as a surprise dawn raid, about a dozen contractors, with eight chain saws, were instructed by the trust’s management to get the trees down as fast as they could, which left a chaotic tangle of trees lying in all directions.”
National Trust officials say the claims about its conduct are inaccurate and that the tree-felling work, that has now been completed, is supported by Natural England, the Forestry Commission and Cheshire County Council.
The trust have removed self-seeded birch trees from a three-hectare area of Bickerton Hill as part of their heathland regeneration project.
Chris Widger, countryside manager for Cheshire, said: “Bickerton Hill is a site of special scientific interest under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and as such the National Trust is obliged to follow statutory guidelines laid down by the government throughŠits agent, Natural England, toŠmanage this extremely rare heathland habitat.
“Aside from the logging and clearing process,Šit is not the trust’s intention to undertake any further substantial tree removal.
“Around half the hill still remains as woodland.ŠEfforts will now focus on encouraging the re-establishment of the heathland flora and promoting the development of woodland in areas identifiedŠelsewhere on the hill.
“We will continue toŠengageŠwith and inform local communities around Bickerton as set out in the community meeting of July 2006.”