A CAMPAIGN group has written an open letter to the Malvern Hills Trust raising serious concerns about a new half-a-million pound ten-year grazing contract.

They are calling on the Malvern Hills Trust to change their grazing regime to encourage the return of Malvern’s lost skylarks and other wildlife.

The skylark has been almost eradicated on the tops of the Malverns and campaigners say that this is due to intensive grazing and the loss of wild open grassland.

In 1988 there were 54 pairs filling the summer skies above Malvern; now all are gone from the high hills and there are only eight territories left on the surrounding commons.

Skylarks last bred on the high Northern Hills and campaigners believe this is where they are most likely to return.

But the group have expressed their concerns that the trust is about to let a new 10-year grazing contract to graze down to 2-15cms on the Northern Hills – too short for skylarks that need 20cms plus.

The campaign group feels that the issue is now so serious it has now gone public, and it is demanding that the Trust changes its grazing regime to bring skylarks back. They say grazing needs to cease early enough for grass to be 20cm plus in March, and left undisturbed until mid-August.

Campaign leader Ian Wells said: "Before any more public money is expended on this project the Trust must be clear about how its land management plan protects and enhances nature.

"After all, their own vision is of ‘skylark outpouring its song on the Malverns'.

"As grazing has intensified, wildlife has receded and scrub has increased, begging the question of what is grazing for?

"It seems to have become an end in itself."

The campaign group highlights that on Bredon Hill, in the Cotswolds reduced grazing has produced ‘fantastic’ results for breeding skylark, and local commons around the Malverns such as Poolbrook and Hollybed, that are busy with walkers and dogs, still have skylarks.

They say that the key difference is that the grass is longer in these areas.