Crucial stance

SIR - I must applaud Stewart Williams for his crucial stance against the planned grazing of livestock and erection of fencing on Fire Beacon and hope that like-minded souls will join in voicing their concerns before it becomes too late.

Mr Williams has raised many valid issues which, if ignored, will see the detriment to an area of outstanding natural beauty and the loss of rare species of wildlife that depend on this unique habitat.

I am 83 years old and my knowledge and love of Fire Beacon has developed during a lifetime of work and leisure spent in the area. I was born at Tipton St John and have lived at the Bowd for 40 years, so I feel I speak with considerable experience. In my lifetime, I have already witnessed the loss of a similar heath at Venn Ottery Common.

My grandparents lived nearby, so I knew the area as a child and have seen, at firsthand, how grazing, fencing and machinery can quickly destroy a natural habitat that endured for centuries without human intervention.

The picturesque mixture of gorse, heather and bracken has now given way to open, wild grassland and the once prolific wildlife has declined dramatically. I dread the same fate befalling Fire Beacon, which will, undoubtedly, happen if the Council’s plans go ahead.

I have some authority on the subject, having worked with the environment for 25 years in Clinton Forestry Division. Furthermore, I have kept bees for 50 years and am keenly aware of the interdependency of fauna and flora and just how readily this can be upset.

It is, therefore, with some astonishment that I learn that the management proposals for Fire Beacon originated from someone who purports to be a nature conservationist. It is also concerning that a vast weight of public opinion has been apparently ignored.

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When I made the considerable effort to attend the Council’s open day on Fire Beacon, I met and spoke with many people and nobody, either at the time or subsequently, supported the plans for grazing and fencing. So why is it now going ahead without public consensus?

I admit to some degree of bias, Fire Beacon is a beautiful place, crammed full of nature and it is available for the whole community to enjoy. My wife’s ashes are scattered on the summit, along with a seat to commemorate her love for the spot. I now have great fear that it may not survive for future generations.

If you feel the same way and wish to preserve Fire Beacon, act now and make your opinion count, voice your concern to Sidmouth Town Council.

George Cross

The Bowd, Sidmouth