Wildlife and nature
We work with environmental and community organisations, land managers and landowners to:
Improve conditions for nature in the Chase.
Enlarge and connect habitats.
Cannock Chase AONB is home to an amazing variety of wildlife that lives within internationally important and fragile heathlands, rare wetlands in the Sherbrook and Oldacre Valleys and ancient wood pasture at Brocton Coppice.
The wildlife of the Chase is highly cherished by the many local people who come to spot or hear distinctive birds like the nightjar and woodlark, watch reptiles like adders and lizards, catch glimpses of the deer, study the geology or simply get close to nature.
Although the habitats on the Chase are relatively large, offering a degree of protection and resilience for the wildlife they support, the AONB is becoming less connected with surrounding greenspace which has the effect of isolating its wildlife populations. Wildlife on the Chase itself is also under pressure from increasing visitor use, the changing climate and increased wildfires and new pests and diseases associated with this, and a decline in traditional grazing management. Grazing with the Cannock Grey-Face sheep, small herds of cattle and even geese was the traditional practice on Cannock Chase up until the Great War. This combination of external and internal pressures is placing some species vulnerable to local extinction.
Local geological sites
Cannock Chase AONB includes 5 Local Geological Sites, and in 2021 the AONB Partnership appointed a specialist geologist to re-assess their condition.
The five sites exhibit important geological and geomorphological features ranging from old gravel pits revealing exposures of Lower Triassic Bunter Pebble Beds (Cannock Chase Formation), sandstone beds, and exposed geological faces in a disused quarry. They include the publicly accessible Etching Hill near Rugeley where the red and white sandstones with pebbly beds forms a small prominent escarpment.
The assessment found three of the sites remained in good condition, with one site unchanged in an unfavourable state, and one site requiring further investigation. Local Geological Sites are an important educational, historical and recreational resource and receive protection through the planning process. The findings include recommendations for management which have been passed on to the relevant landowners. During 2022 volunteers will be trained to record veteran trees to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of this important resource on Cannock Chase.
On September 2021 the Woodland Trust in conjunction with Cannock Chase AONB Partnership and National Trust Shugborough Estate held a 1-day training course for landowners and practitioners to improve our understanding of veteran trees and how to manage them for their immense ecological, historical and landscape value.
The course helped to identify what a veteran tree is, how to manage them to extend their life, and explained how best to plant new trees to make provision for a future generation of veteran trees.
State of invertebrates
Thanks to the efforts of many dedicated invertebrate recorders over the decades, the heaths, forests, river valleys and historic parklands of Cannock Chase are known to be home to a variety of invertebrates including specialities like the small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly, bog bush cricket, Welsh clearwing and green tiger beetle.
New research carried out by ‘Buglife’, the Invertebrate Conservation Trust, has pulled together and assessed all of these records collected over the last 25 years. For the first time we now have a picture of the value of the Chase for this fascinating group of creatures, including their distribution, conservation status and ‘hotspots’ for invertebrate fauna.
The audit has found that Cannock Chase supports an important assemblage of invertebrates, with an impressive list of records of over 2,655 invertebrate species. No fewer than 226 of these species are on national lists of invertebrates of ‘conservation concern’. This indicates an overall invertebrate fauna of importance.
The full report is available to download from our publications section.
State of bats
New research has shown that Cannock Chase provides a home for 9 out of Staffordshire’s 12 species of bat. Go out at dusk on the Chase and you stand a chance of seeing common and soprano pipistrelles, Natterer’s bat, whiskered bat, Brandt’s bat, Daubenton’s bat, Leisler’s bat, noctule and brown long-eared bat. Broadleaved woodland, parkland and wood-pasture, agriculturally unimproved grasslands and river corridors are the best places to look.
Bats make an important contribution to the UK’s biodiversity, accounting for more than a third of Britain’s mammal species. They are valuable indicators of the health of our ecosystems as they are sensitive to landscape change and offer many economic benefits such as helping to control pests by eating insects. All bat species, their breeding sites and resting places are legally protected.
The research has improved what we know about bats on Cannock Chase, and the findings will help to shape and inform the way in which habitats and landscapes are managed. It has also highlighted where there are still gaps in our knowledge. For example, understanding why so few bats have been recorded from the Chase’s conifer plantations and heathlands? Does this reflect less recording in these areas, or are these habitats less suitable for these fascinating creatures?
The full report is available to download from our publications section.
Cannock Chase AONB has been awarded a grant of £192,221 under National Grid’s Landscape Enhancement Initiative to be implemented over the next 5 years for heathland restoration work at Gentleshaw Common, to be delivered by our partners Staffordshire Wildlife Trust.
During 2020 we are working with stakeholders to trial the reintroduction of livestock grazing to key sites to support the sustainable management of our internationally important heathlands.
As part of our ongoing work to monitor and manage invasive species, we are working with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust to survey for the presence/absence of the endangered native white-clawed crayfish, and the non-native signal crayfish. Signal crayfish out-compete our native crayfish and carry a potentially lethal fungal pathogen. We are also going to encourage native crayfish populations by improving their habitat and capturing and controlling signal crayfish.
Restoring our heathlands
Expanding and linking the surviving areas of heathland on Cannock Chase will improve conditions for a wide range of wildlife and open up views for people to enjoy. The AONB Partnership is developing a major project to restore heath on conifer plantations, acquiring land for a compensatory area of planting elsewhere. This project will make a significant contribution to the AONB family’s national commitment to help deliver the national Nature Recovery Network.
The churring of the European Nightjar is an iconic sound of Cannock Chase. In 2019 the AONB commissioned the West Midlands Ringing Group to carry out a breeding survey of this mysterious migrant bird.
2019 proved to be an exceptional year for recording Nightjar on Cannock Chase, with some fascinating data obtained. For example, more nightjars were caught during the survey than in any other year, and all of the birds that had previously been ringed originated from Cannock Chase. The survey also revealed that areas of clear-felled conifer plantations were popular for breeding. The 75% fledging success rate is higher than has been seen in similar studies where only 40% were successful.
The survey findings are being used to inform the future conservation management strategies for the Chase so that this iconic species continues to return each year and successfully breed.