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'Green brigade' blamed for making the Long Mynd 'barren'

By Toby Neal | Church Stretton | News | Published:

The Long Mynd - spectacular, beautiful, and now that environmentalists have stuck their oar in, barren.

That is the view of Bill Kerswell who lives in the shadow of the Long Mynd, who has dug out this label for locally harvested bilberries - also called whinberries - to make his point and show how productive the hill used to be in bygone days.

Berry productive - a label from the days when the Long Mynd was harvested for bilberries, also known as whinberries.

The label is for "famous Longmynd Bilberries" which were "specially packed by J.A. Keenan & Son, Little Stretton."

"They sent tons of whinberries to Manchester via Marshbrook station in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s which had come off the Long Mynd, which today has hardly any," says Bill.

"Well before the National Trust took over the Long Mynd there used to be 11,000 sheep, hundreds of cattle and horses, thousands of grouse were shot annually, and 10,000 rabbits. The hill was very productive and supported dozens of smallholdings and farms, and supplied lamb, rabbits, and so on.

"Bracken was cut for animal bedding, so nothing was wasted."

'Ruined'

He attacked the green brigade who he said were encouraging the destocking of the Long Mynd to "save the environment" and prevent the hill being "ruined" by farmers.

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"They don't realise that the livestock and game actually made the place a living hill," he said.

"The people years ago knew a lot more about nature, the environment, and conservation than all these ecology freaks today with their degrees in everything.

"Frank Prince, Percy Kent, and Walter 'Goggy' Beamand - he lived at Gogbatch, hence the nickname - all had huge flocks of hill sheep and helped feed the nation and clothe them in wool.

"Bob Keenan, whose family ran the Little Stretton shop for around 100 years and purchased the whinberries from locals and gipsies, who made double a working man's wages, kindly gave me a few whinberry labels, and I enclose one to show they are genuine."

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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