Posted on Tuesday 16th February 2021
Two of the ramps created by digging out earth in Brocton Coppice.
Irreplaceable ancient oak trees dating back to the time of King Henry VIII are being vandalised.
People are building illegal trails through Brocton Coppice for use by mountain bikes, off-road motorbikes and quad bikes.
Earth is being dug out to create banks, ramps and jumps, which is damaging the roots of vulnerable oaks in the process.
Victoria Wilson, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Communities and Culture, said:
We have had a few problems recently which we have dealt with, but this latest incident is staggering; large holes have been dug to create ramps and jumps and the result is that these trees are under threat.
Many of these oaks are more than two or three centuries old, while some have been here for more than 600 years – and once they’re gone, they’re lost forever.
The problem is that the roots are very shallow and quite close to the surface, so both digging up the soil, or compacting it will cause damage.
We will have to repair this area by hand to prevent further trouble, but they have really damaged the root system of one of the oaks in particular, which may not survive.”
Not only are the ancient oaks important in their own right, but they also provide a home to rare bats, birds, beetles and fungi.
Although vulnerable to root damage, the trees can also be weakened by sudden changes to their environment which renders them more vulnerable to disease and rapid deterioration.
It is not known who is causing the damage. Mountain bike tracks are predominant in the area, although the presence of off-road motorbikes and quad bikes has been identified.
There are promoted mountain bike trails on neighbouring Forestry England land at Birches Valley and mountain bikers can use bridleways across Cannock Chase, including through Brocton Coppice.
Victoria Wilson added:
It is illegal for motorbikes and quad bikes to be on Cannock Chase.
Mountain bikers are very welcome if they use the promoted routes and bridleways. We work with several mountain bike clubs and groups and I know many of their members also volunteer to help maintain the Forestry England tracks.
This, however, is criminal damage in a protected area of international importance and we are willing to take action.”
The incident has been reported to Staffordshire Police and the area will be patrolled more intensely by the Ranger service.
Anyone in the Brocton Coppice area, whether on foot, bike, or horseback is asked to keep to the tracks to avoid compacting the soil and help care for these ancient trees.