Fire Hills could lose their flame with clearance

Yellow gorse flowers which give the ‘Fire Hills’ their name at Fairlight could have their flames doused by Hastings Borough Council.

The Council says work is underway on a three year programme to clear naturally growing gorse and scrub from a large area of Hastings Country Park, which stretches from Hastings to Fairlight.

Lead member for the Country Park, Cllr Dawn Poole, explained :- “The Country Park includes the Hastings Cliffs Site of Special Scientific Interest (‘SSSI’), and the European-designated Special Area of Conservation. These recognise the national and international importance of the vegetated cliff, cliff top grassland and coastal heathland which characterises the Country Park and, indeed, makes it so special.

“It is owned by Hastings Borough Council, and we have a legal duty to conserve the area, and a duty to conserve and enhance the SSSIs which we own and manage.

“The council has been working with Natural England on management and protection of the Country Park since 2000, and, following the completion of a successful ten year Countryside Stewardship Agreement started in 2004, we worked with Natural England to move on to a ten year Higher Level Stewardship Agreement.

“The agreement highlights the fact that gorse and bracken are a severe threat to maritime heath and cliff-top habitats and their control has to be high priority, and sets very clear targets for their management.”

Yet conservation body the RSPB says that: “Gorse is very important for birds and for invertebrates.”

Gorse is ideal for a range of nesting heathland, downland and farmland birds, including the Dartford warbler, stonechat, linnet and yellowhammer. The dense structure also provides important refuge for these birds in harsh weather, and is essential for the survival of Dartford warblers in winter. Scarce invertebrates are dependent on it in winter.