A WILDILFE lover has launched a campaign aimed at increasing the number of skylarks on the Malvern Hills and surrounding commons.

Ian Wells, a member of the Malvern Bird Group, wants the Malvern Hills Trust - formerly the Conservators - to let grass grow longer on the hilltops and in certain areas of the commons to encourage the birds to nest there.

He wants supporters of the Save our Malvern Skylarks campaign to lobby the trust in a bid to change its polices.

But the trust says the reasons for the decline in skylark numbers is debatable and says its policies will benefit skylarks and other ground-nesting birds.

Mr Wells said: "We are asking the Malvern Hills Trust simply to let the grass grow longer where skylarks used to nest on the high hills and where they still are on the commons. On the high hills this means no grazing or very light grazing.

"In the ten years from 1992 when there was no grazing, photographs show that there was no increase in scrub on the tops of the hills.

"Now the Beacon and North Hill look like a rough field with no skylarks and less wildlife. On the commons you need some grazing for sure, but too much and the skylarks will disappear.”

Jonathan Bills, the trust's conservation manager, said: "We are well-aware of the national decline in skylark numbers.

"Our land management plan 2016-2021 incorporates a range of actions that will benefit skylark and other ground-nesting birds, including our ongoing project to encourage people to keep their dogs under close control.

"We must balance the needs of the public, wildlife, and cultural heritage with a special focus on the most important features such as the acid grasslands in partnership with Natural England.

"The causes for skylark decline are much debated, with several ecological experts backing alternate reasons in contrast with those of the Save our Malvern Skylark campaign.

"Meanwhile, we shall continue with our habitat improvement works with staff and volunteers undertaking further works to restore the open habitats.

"Supporters of the skylark campaign are welcome to join our work parties in making a real difference on the ground."