Who Manages Chasewater and Cuckoo Bank?
On this page we were planning to give you a Wildlife Code for Chasewater and to tell you all about who actually manages this very large site (360 hectares - about 900 acres of Open Space and Water, much of it designated as a Country Park). Cuckoo Bank is not included in that acreage. There are many competing interests, ownerships and tenancies that challenge the management of the important wildlife interests, however the designation of the Chasewater and South Staffordshire Coalfields Site of Special Scientific Interest in December 2010 has been a huge step in the right direction. The Management of the Country Park is now be in the hands of Staffordshire County Council which has taken over control from Lichfield District Council since April 2012. The Canal and River Trust (formerly British Waterways) owns the water of the main lake, the Anglesey Branch canal and some of the land in Anglesey Basin.
To try and explain and educate the public, all other users and those responsible for management and policing, we give below a list of all the different activities and interests that now take place, legally and illegally, on the Chasewater and Cuckoo Bank site
These are not in any order of priority so they are listed alphabetically:
Anti-social Behaviour -
beginning to rear its ugly head at Chasewater with more
gatherings of young people in cars at various locations around the southern end.
Batwatching - doesn't cause any problems. An important site for several species of bats. They are all protected species.
Birdwatching - generally doesn't cause any problems but birders parking cars along the south road between car park and Railway is not acceptable as the road is narrow.
Cafes - a very useful asset for visitors. We now have one at the Innovation Centre and the Brownhills West and Chasewater Heaths stations as well as at the Water-ski Club. A potential for litter and pollution and must be carefully controlled.
Camping - caravans and tents are beginning to appear at events around the Waterski Centre and on the southern grassland. Is this official? Will it snowball? Is this acceptable? Problems of pollution of water.
Canoeing - until recently only the Outdoor Education Centre used a few canoes on the main lake, mainly in Fly Bay (the Creek) but there are occasional cases of unofficial canoeing, especially on Jeffrey's Swag, with dire potential consequences for the wildfowl. Jeffrey's Swag was proposed to be a Local Nature Reserve many years ago but it has not come to pass. Protecting this Pool needs addressing URGENTLY as it is the key to the importance of Chasewater as a whole for its birds. It is where the birds have been able to take refuge when disturbed (as they are frequently) from the main lake.
Car Parking - more land being taken up by car parking. Becoming a problem around Railway site and Water-ski Centre.
Cycling - so far, not a serious problem but mountain bikes can be ridden anywhere and if allowed to, will certainly cause serious problems for wildlife, passive natural history activities and people just out for a quiet walk. An increasingly popular pastime everywhere and will need controlling.
Development - one would think that if the owners and managers of the land knew there were rare plants and insects on a site, then, in this day and age, they would think twice before allowing development that would turn a marvellous habitat containing rare species into a synthetic carpet. But this was being seriously proposed (and supported by the Member of Parliament) on land that was part of Chasewater but has now been isolated by a road development and is now earmarked for housing development.
Dog Walking - becoming a disaster, especially on the south shore and sailing shore where dogs are allowed to run along the shoreline disturbing feeding waders and waterfowl. All dogs should be kept on leads. An approved dog play area should perhaps be created. Dog Litter should be binned by dog owners. Health hazard.
Farming - since the restoration at Cuckoo Bank (after opencasting on Bleak House), some of the land has been restored to farmland and owners/tenants are now farming some of it. Fertilisers are bound to be washed down into the SSSI which depends upon low levels of nutrients in order to exist. Cattle grazing is also taking place in the SSSI in order to manage the heathland - this needs to be carefully monitored as many adverse effects are being recorded, particularly in the damp heath and woodland areas.
Feeding ducks, geese and swans - children (and adults) love this activity which takes place mainly on the South Shore and on the Swag. Litter is a problem and there needs to be education and enforcement. Bread is not the correct food for ducks, geese and swans (and can in fact cause their death) and the public should be educated to feed grain as the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust do at Martin Mere and Slimbridge.
Fishing - still problems with hooks and lines left lying about which are a hazard and from litter that is left by a few. Rules need enforcing. Fishing for food is on the increase as people unaware of British culture settle in the area - education is needed.
Games Area (near main Centre) - contained at the moment but needs to be kept in the one area so as not to impinge on more of the site.
Horse Riding - an increasing activity around Chasewater and Cuckoo Bank (illegally as no bridle paths). Paths are made muddy and unsafe for walkers. Should they be on the site anyway?
Innovation Centre - becoming increasingly popular. Educational and conservation potential not being exploited.
Kite Flying - illegally taking place on Cuckoo Bank (it is not open to the public and there are no public rights of way across it, only around it).
Moth Trapping - generally doesn't cause any problems. Carried out to monitor populations.
Motorbike Scrambling - illegally taking place on Cuckoo Bank and within the SSSI's with dire consequences for the vegetation and wildlife. Beginning to take place over Chasewater on the west shore and recently on the east shore north of the dam (and actually sometimes in the water where they wash their bikes!). Also potential for injuring public. Needs to be stopped immediately.
Outdoor Education Centre - where the next generation of adults ought to be learning all about protecting the environment, respecting other users of open spaces and learning all about the importance and value of a site as important as Chasewater. Have recently given cause for concern by damaging important habitat within the Centre's grounds.
Picnicking - generally doesn't cause any problems apart from litter and the damage and fire-risk caused by barbeques.
Power Boating - this activity conflicts with water birds feeding and gulls roosting on the main lake. There needs to be some strict rules drawn up and agreed AND implemented by the Club. Potential for serious problems if large events are staged.
Quad Bikes - a new and worrying activity over the whole site as, like Scrambler bikes, they can go anywhere and do! They damage habitats, disturb wildlife and bring danger and disturbance to passive users of the site. Needs to be stopped immediately.
Rabbit Hunting with Dogs - seen recently near Slurry Pool. Spaniel training also occurring on Cuckoo Bank which has possibly resulted in nest desertion by rare birds.
Railway - an awful lot of money and effort has gone into this development now stretching over 2 miles around Chasewater which is gradually becoming bigger and bigger and spreading round the whole site. So far not causing any major problems but needs careful monitoring
Remote Control Car Racing - this new activity has started on the old stadium site. Another case of a particular interest simply moving into an area without thought for other users and of course for the wildlife.
Remote Control Model Aircraft Flying - occurring from the top of a restored pit mound next to Slurry Pool. Potential for disturbing wildfowl on the Pool.
Ringing Birds - ringing occurring in reed beds on Slurry Pool.
Rugby Club - an active recreational activity on the boundary of the site but which adjoins some important wildlife habitats. Trespass and encroachment needs to be monitored.
Sailing and Windsurfing - causes problems as they cover the whole water searching for the wind and cause serious disturbance to water birds and the Gull Roost. Problem needs addressing urgently.
Shooting - always was a problem at Chasewater but after a lull, it seems to have started again on Cuckoo Bank with Airguns and Rifles. Also youths with air rifles shooting on Chasewater north shore. Obviously illegal and also a danger to human life.
Sub-Aqua Diving - occasionally takes place.
Triathlon - an increasingly popular sport and Chasewater is very much 'on the map' as a venue for the swimming and cycling transition stages as demonstrated by the Ironman 70.3 event in June 2015. The effects need to be carefully monitored.
Wakelake centre now occupy the pier and the southern
end of the dam and provide what appears to be a very popular activity - the
effects to the wildlife need to be monitored.
Walking & Running - generally no problem IF walkers and runners keep to the paths.
Water Skiing - this activity conflicts with wildfowl feeding and gulls roosting. There needs to be some strict rules drawn up and agreed AND implemented by the Ski Centre. Potential for serious problems if large events are staged.
Wildlife Watching & Recording - an increasingly popular pastime and besides birds, bats and moths (mentioned above), it also includes Butterflies, Mammals (Chasewater now has Red Deer breeding there), Amphibians, Dragonflies, and of course a rich plant community with many rare species. Life in the main lake and other pools and ponds on the site is also very rich and unique because of the relatively clean water running into it from Cuckoo Bank in the north. This gives it a rich population of crustaceans which is the reason why Chasewater is so attractive to wildfowl. Its fish populations are also rich and varied. All this, however, is susceptible to disturbance, pollution, and habitat destruction - all of which appear to be on the increase.
TEN Suggestions for urgent ACTIONS that need to be taken to PROTECT AND CONSERVE CHASEWATER, its wildlife habitats and species and its value to the local community:
1. Need for a NEW Chasewater Overall Body that can enforce rules and prevent conflicts. All 'stakeholders' need to be involved, including those with the knowlege of the actual site rather than just the general theory of ecosystem management. Without some overall body that can oversee and manage the whole site it will deteriorate in quality, wildlife habitats and species will be damaged and lost, the SSSI will be damaged (a criminal offence), the site will get misused, and the caring and responsible members of the public who visit the site regularly will stop visiting and the value of Chasewater will decline.
2. Rangers need to be high profile and active around the site during all open hours. More of them are needed and they should have up-to-date training in Countryside and Wildlife Management. The Friends of Norton Bog and Chasewater Volunteers should be praised and developed to help with education, monitoring and enforcement.
3. More signs need to be erected to educate and inform the public about the importance of Chasewater - about its heritage and about its wildlife.
4. There needs to be a strong and permanent 'Wildlife' presence within the Innovation Centre that promotes the whole site and not just the 'park' area.
5. Jeffrey's Swag needs to be
created as a Local Nature Reserve as a matter of urgency. It holds a
large population of the rare Floating Water-Plantain as well as very high
populations of wildfowl, particularly Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, etc. etc. It
MUST remain an undisturbed and pollution free pool. A great
potential for developing links with the local people, particularly the young.
They have a wonderful asset on their doorstep!
6. The north end of the main pool of Chasewater (from the island) should be a "no go" area for Sailing and Power Boat activities and kept as a quiet feeding area for waterbirds that are disturbed from the southern part of the main pool.
7. English Nature should
urgently survey the condition of the SSSI. Pressure needs to be
put on the owners and tenants before further damage to them is
done. Some are deteriorating in quality because of lack of care,
8. A map should be displayed in the Innovation Centre showing the boundaries of ownerships and/or activities for the whole site.
9. A list should be displayed in the Innovation Centre of all the User Bodies and Groups (official and unofficial), with a contact name, address and phone number.
10. All motorised vehicles - cars,
motorbikes, quad bikes, scrambler bikes, scooters - should be banned from being on
the site except on the authorised roads and parking areas. Penalties
should be set and enforced. Fencing and gates should be erected to
prevent access to unauthorised areas.