Brushes Plantation
Brushes Plantation
Brushes Plantation
Roe Deer Trail
Roe Deer Tracks

Tracks in the Snow.

6th February 2009

I would find it hard to say what my favourite time to visit Crompton Moor was but just after a new fall of snow, would be a close contender.

It’s as if the whole place is a fresh canvas waiting for the first brush strokes to sketch out the plan of the year to come.

It’s also a great time to search out the tracks of wildlife that can be difficult to spot at other times of year.

There is also a notable absence of cycle tracks with boots and paw prints dominating the trails.

On this morning I was following a completely different trail.

The dog walkers on the moor form a tight little community, partly because we meet each other so regularly and partly because we keep an eye on what is going on here. It’s difficult to hide from so many watchful eyes.

As I arrived in the car park, I was immediately informed that someone from a forestry company was asking questions about the place and had since walked up onto the moor.

Being the curious soul that I am I decided to find out a little more about this new development and set about following the clear trail in the snow.

I quickly spotted my target, stamping his feet in the snow on the track between the walls running by the Brushes plantation.

I followed him as he set off through the gate towards Whitesides by the Old Brook.

He turned out to be a cheerful fellow by the name of Richard as I later discovered. He was wearing a top emblazoned with the name “Lowther Forestry”. He explained he had received a brief from the council to thin the Whitesides plantation and he was particularly interested in how solid the old lane between the walls was as he had to get some heavy machinery up here.

I replied that the rangers occasionally drove a Landrover up the side of Old Brook so it wasn’t that bad.

His response, which shook me completely, was that he needed much heavier equipment than that, the tree cutting machines were several tons alone.

The plan it transpired was not to simply cut back the undergrowth and side branches as had been done on the other plantations but to cut a substantial number of the trees to open up the woods.

In further conversation I learned that since the plantation was so closely planted, this thinning would have to be done in broad strips to get the machinery into the wood.

I’ve seen forestry operations like this before, they are not gentle affairs, but often leave swathes of cut stumps, broken timber and churned up tracks that take years to recover. 

While we were talking and entering the plantation we flushed three roe deer that had been sheltering in the close brush of the wood. I couldn’t help wondering where they were supposed to shelter after this had been done, let alone while it was going on.

It is fair to say that Whitesides plantation could do with opening up a little but the sensitive sort of work done on the Brushes plantation where the lower branches were cut, allowing light and access, would be much more suitable than such a large scale industrial operation.

The timber in Whitesides is of virtually no commercial value anyway, being barely suitable for fencing poles.    It just doesn’t make sense.

Roe deer tracks, front and rear prints almost superimposed. Tuppence piece for scale.

The only reason I can see for this is to clear the way for this grand plan to turn the moor over to a cycle leisure park, you know, the plan that has not been decided upon yet.

The latest article in the Oldham Advertiser however tells us that “A recent meeting of the local area committee received a briefing from the newly-formed Crompton Moor User Group about the proposal. It was reported that funding is available for the cycle trail from the Big Lottery programme and that it is now hoped that, subject to final approval, construction can start in the summer.”

So much for consultation.

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