It’s a bit like the farmer with the fox, the hen and the bag of grain. Which are safe together? Conservation is sometimes about choices ….. rabbits do massive damage to bronze age barrows and Iron Age  hill forts, trees have often meant they have survived, but often the reverse…

Recently though, English Heritage has had to make an unusual choice: the removal of a beautiful stand of trees to protect a rabbit warren. The beech trees, on Cothelstone Hill in the Quantocks are to be felled over a four-year period due to concerns their roots could start to damage an underground  medieval rabbit warren. A spokesman for English Heritage said they were working with the Quantock Hills AONB Service to manage the land, adding: “We agreed that the needs of this scheduled monument, which is at high risk, take precedence over the beautiful but relatively young trees.”

A local walker disagrees, saying he is “gobsmacked” and that it would leave the skyline bare for the next 20 years. He said: “I understand we need to preserve archaeological heritage but we should be thinking about protecting the areas millions of people recognise.”  EH and the AONB Service feel differently and say they intend to replace the trees. To add a final complication EH mention that “Unfortunately damage is already being caused due to erosion of the surface layers of the scheduled monument due to the herd of Exmoor ponies, which use the location for shelter.”

So should the ponies be shot?! ** Or the beautiful trees be cut down? Or the present-day rabbits be culled? Or should the fort and the warren be left to further deteriorate?

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** No.