COUNTRYSIDE lovers have voiced concerns over National Trust plans to fence off large parts of Kinver Edge, fell trees and introduce more cattle.

More than 300 people have joined a Facebook group called Kinver Edge Riders Group, which was set up in response to landscape-changing proposals announced by the trust.

The national conservation charity, which manages Kinver Edge, plans to cut down trees at Blakeshall Common and turn the area, formerly known as Kingsford Forest Park, into an area of traditional lowland heath which would be grazed by traditional longhorn cattle.

But horse riders, dog walkers and people living nearby have expressed shock over the proposed changes.

Worried resident Claire Brooks said: "It will never be the same again. It's horrendous."

She said she fears the plans will "completely desecrate" the beauty spot and prevent many walkers and horse riders from freely enjoying the great outdoors.

Angie Mansell, who has enjoyed horse riding, cycling and dog walking in the area for more than 40 years, said the plans would mean " a huge change to the landscape".

While horse riders, who have joined the Facebook group, say they are worried about plans to introduce horse gates and fearful about riding their horses anywhere near cattle.

Sharon Allan, from the Kinver Edge Riders Group, added: "This area has enjoyed for decades by walkers, dog walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

"There is a real concern from horse riders, many of whom will have their access denied due to difficulties with gates, particularly for disabled, young and inexperienced riders. Local livery yards are worried about losing business due to the changes.

"There is also concern from riders who are nervous about riding around cattle. Many riders have horses who get stressed around livestock. A frightened horse is a danger to itself, the rider and the public."

The trust says the cattle it plans to introduce are a docile breed and that they would maintain the heath and help to create a rich habitat structure similar to other areas of heath on Kinver Edge.

National Trust countryside, gardens and parkland manager, Peter Carty, said: “We hope to restore an area of land that is currently occupied by ageing non-native conifer trees to its traditional status of lowland heath. This involves removing a crop of trees, which will soon be at the end of its cycle, and will benefit a great variety of wildlife including threatened species such as adders and hopefully encourage the return of nightjar and woodlark.

He said the trust has organised a series of consultations and has "listened to some of the concerns emerging from the local community" and he added: "We will take these on-board and try to address some of the concerns.”

Mr Carty continued: “Last night (April 2) at Wolverley and Cookley Parish Council we announced some amendments to our plans which should hopefully address some of the concerns raised by the horse riders.

‘We are in the middle of our consultation period and after taking into consideration the responses we get, we hope to be able to share our final proposal at the end of April.”

The trust says it has received support from local Wildlife Trusts and Natural England for its plan to create the heathland, which is increasingly rare in the UK, and that many trees, like oaks and silver birch, would remain plus some of the conifers, such as the Scots pines, to provide diversity of habitat and to screen the surrounding views.

A guided walk, offering people the opportunity to find out more, will be held tomorrow (Thursday April 4). It starts at 10am from the Comber Road noticeboard (DY7 6HU) and will last around two hours.

There will also be a drop-in session at Kinver Library on Tuesday April 9, from 3pm to 7pm.

Anyone with any concerns or ideas or just wishing to have their say can email or contact the trust by social media.