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Friends of Pishiobury Park frustrated over delay to Local Nature Reserve bid




A frustrated group of volunteers is appealing to council chiefs to "get things moving" and declare Pishiobury Park a Local Nature Reserve after a seven-year delay.

Friends group chairman Bob Reed revealed that East Herts Council had said in 2013 that making the park a Local Nature Reserve was "a good idea" and he believed the application was with Natural England. But seven years on nothing has happened.

"We need to plan ahead, but the silence both from East Herts and Natural England is demoralising and frustrating," he said. "So come on, EHC and Natural England, get things moving so that the community, youth groups and schools can celebrate this very special part of our local countryside."

Bob Reed, chairman of Friends of Pishiobury Park. Pic: Vikki Lince. (42999339)
Bob Reed, chairman of Friends of Pishiobury Park. Pic: Vikki Lince. (42999339)

Bob says the park, in Pishiobury Drive, would benefit from the declaration as it would draw people's attention and give it status, which could in turn lead to the opportunity to claim for grants.

It qualifies for Local Nature Reserve status because it is a County Wildlife Site with grassland which has never been sprayed or fertilised and as a result has a huge number of wildflowers.

"Herts has lost over 95% of this type of grassland and we have 70 acres (30 hectares) of this habitat at Pishiobury," said Bob.

Margaret's Bench in Pishiobury Park. Pic: Vikki Lince. (42999365)
Margaret's Bench in Pishiobury Park. Pic: Vikki Lince. (42999365)

"Fourteen species of butterflies have been recorded and we have at least five types of bats. There is ancient woodland and 23 types of trees including veteran oak and hornbeam. There is access to the old River Stort backwater and the River Stort towpath."

Bob added: "The history goes back to the Ice Age and there are continuous historic events right up until the present day, including the Neolithic causewayed enclosure, the Capability Brown-style park and the strong links with world-renowned plant breeder Thomas Rivers."

He believes that with the second coronavirus lockdown there is no better time for people to get reconnected with the countryside.

"We're particularly keen to get mums and dads and children into the park," he said. "We want people to know that the park is here. You can walk to it, cycle it and from the park you can walk to the River Stort."

Pishiobury Park, Sawbridgeworth. Boardwalk down to the Osier Bed (the original path of the River Stort before navigation). Pic: Vikki Lince. (42999357)
Pishiobury Park, Sawbridgeworth. Boardwalk down to the Osier Bed (the original path of the River Stort before navigation). Pic: Vikki Lince. (42999357)

The wildlife is much photographed by residents who post pictures regularly on Facebook, with many focusing on the longhorn cattle that graze there and the wildflowers.

Bob said that for people facing isolation and boredom at home during the lockdown it's the perfect tonic. "It's going to get you out in the fresh air with no pressure on you," he said. "You can run round the park and it's a place where you can relax."

The Indie contacted Natural England. A spokesman for the non-departmental Government body said the process of getting the park designated as a Local Nature Reserve lies with the local authority.

"The application is made and site declared by them, with Natural England being consulted, and then it is our role to register it on our systems," the spokesman added.

A spokesperson for East Herts Council said: "The process for securing Pishiobury Park as a designated Local Nature Reserve (LNR) was initiated in 2013. Over the years there have been a number of challenges to overcome, including a query over the boundaries of the site.

"We are still looking to achieve LNR status and our officers are in regular communication with Natural England to make this happen.”



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