My blog arrives from the discomfort of my armchair as my back has well and truly cried enough after a day of exertion. Now I am no stranger to hard graft, in fact I regularly recognise when someone is working but to don my gloves and get stuck in had to be for a very good reason. The good reason was the planned shrub clearance at Park Lime Pits in our first assault on the grimy perverts that seem to want to frequent our local beauty spot.
There was a very good turnout, over a dozen of gently persuaded individuals, expertly guided by Morgan from Walsall Countryside Services. The plan was to open out the areas in the car park where the trees and brambles were providing a little too much cover for illegal activity. It looked like a massive task but the saying about many hands rang true. Bit by bit the area was tidied and pruned, cleared and chopped. The pile of discarded shrubbage was later used to make a two metre high hurdle blocking access from the car park to another of the ASB sites. Four hours of graft was well worth it as not only have we destroyed a pervert den but we have made access to another a little more difficult. Within the week Walsall Countryside services will be removing the cover for another of the dens, driving them ever deeper and further from the pathways. We appeared to be providing entertainment for would be cottagers as a number continually drove to the entrance of the car park before performing a three point turn and returning from whence they came. At one point we were joined by the Police who have been fantastic in their patrolling of the area, watching the calm panic of the perverts as they scarpered.
The last few times we have visited in the day time to monitor the car park we have felt very uneasy at the obvious reasons of some of the visitors, this time it was their turn to feel uneasy, it felt good to get a little revenge. No doubt they will be most annoyed that we have taken action to regain the Lime Pits but I worry how permanent this victory will be. The Council has announced swingeing cuts to the budget for next year leading to a wholesale renege on all non essential services in the years to come. Out of the £2m of cuts they have chosen to publish, leaving I believe another £11m of hidden cuts, £400k is from the Parks and Open spaces budget. It doesn’t take any imagination to realise that the upkeep of Park Lime Pits and mostly all of Walsall’s beauty spots will suffer. Not only will we lose the resources but also the expertise. It is particularly naive of those in decision making positions to believe that essential maintenance and improvement schemes can be left to “Friends ” groups, as for the large part we are enthusiastic but without guidance we are powerless. Without the expertise, these groups will fail and the areas of beauty will be reclaimed by nature and by those that wish to abuse and once lost, getting them back will be nigh on impossible. As I write I am boiling inside at the myopic stance on budgetary restraints. The Rangers I have met give far more than they demand, they work unpaid on many projects demanding their guidance, the volunteer not because of a sense of duty but because they care, they care about legacy and they care about the bit of the world they can influence. Finding people to perform as they do is another impossibility, to undervalue their worth is frankly, pathetic.
I wonder about the backbone and the commitment of these elected representatives. Recently a lobby has been made to raise their awareness, the response has been unworthy of the time taken or the gravity of the problem they are creating. Leisure and Open spaces shouldn’t be an easy target. In fact should any of our services be a target? If the budget requirements cannot be met without destroying society, then surely a stance should be made against those that set these budgets. The council appear scared to raise the community charge for fear of a referendum and yet when you cannot trust your elected representatives to defend your rights then the decision process must be returned to the people. I voted in the expectation that the democratically elected representative would represent, make the tough decisions, do what is right. If they aren’t doing that, what are they there for? And if they aren’t going to do anything at least give a response as to why when asked.
Just in case there is any misunderstanding. I believe we owe it to ourselves and future generations to resist in the strongest possible terms, long term damage to our countryside. Ill conceived short term gains will result in far greater losses. Losses that we should not stand for and those that represent us need to understand the depth of feeling. I urge anyone in a position to do so to contact their Councillors to exert pressure to turn this around.