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  • Julie Muller

MIDSUMMER HILL - Change and Hope!! (Malvern Hills A.O.N.B.)

(nearest postcode HR8 1ES)

a red welsh sheepdog  puts his paws up on to a tree stump and looks at a map showing forestry work
Bruno examines the plans for the forestry work

Earlier in the year, our humans took us for a walk on Midsummer Hill , one of the Malvern Hills owned and managed by the National Trust.

This beautiful hill is very distinctive with a concrete shelter on its summit, Iron Aged ramparts, and luxuriant tree cover.

However, at that time, we knew that things were about to change as many of the trees populating the hill were in fact ash trees, and these were dying of Ash Die Back Disease – a terminal air borne fungal infection.

A sheep dog sits amongst bracken rolled flat by forestry work and amongst tree debris
Sheep sits amongst rolled bracken and felled trees

Looking at the trees, I couldn’t tell that any of them were unwell. But I know that it could only be a matter of time before these diseased trees start dropping limbs on any unsuspecting dog, or their human, unlucky enough to be standing beneath them.

The National Trust needs to chop the trees down before this happens.

However, when we returned to the Hill a couple of weekends ago, we were ‘shocked’ to see the extent of the changes.

Enormous piles of hewn ash, and other trees which had been intimately interwoven with them, littered the hillside. There were drag lines on the slopes where these green giants had been hauled to the bottom of the hill.

Meanwhile bright yellow machines stood idle this afternoon – only waiting to resume operations next week.

Bruno and I trotted along a path that we didn’t recognise. The Iron Age Fort’s ramparts which were now free of tree cover, were much more obvious to us. I suppose that the archaeologists will be happy that the tree roots will no longer be able to disturb the artefacts buried in them.

We sniffed the piles of logs and we we could sense that many small mammals and insects had already moved in.

There was a surfeit of sticks of all shapes and sizes to play with and we skipped, wrestled, and tumbled as usual.

Although everything around us had changed, we knew that this change was necessary.

Over the years the thick green trees and shrubs have grown so much that the rare flowers growing on the special acid grassland have been shaded out. Now, with the extra light they can flourish once again. And, in the springtime, added warmth will transform the dormant seeds into a carpet of sweet-smelling flowers.

Young tree saplings will always try to 'bully' their way up towards the light and, if the special habitat is to be conserved, they must not be allowed to get too big. The National Trust intends to bring in some vegetation munchers like cattle and sheep to make sure that these young trees just don't get too big for their roots.

And, gradually nature will take over once again, the ravages of the land will be forgotten and so will the disease.

And our humans and us will continue to walk and to enjoy this beautiful place!

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