Grid References: SJ 923396 and SJ 926399
Barlaston and Rough Close Common LNR is a 20.61ha site on the northern edge of Stafford Borough. It is a Registered Common, which is owned and managed by Stafford Borough Council. The site comprises two areas of lowland heathland, which are divided by a minor road that runs approximately north-south through the site. The vegetation is relatively diverse, with distinct variations between the separate parts of the site.
Dry heath and dry acid grassland with locally abundant heather, bilberry and bell heather dominate the eastern section of the site. The western part comprises mainly acidic marshy grassland, containing purple moor-grass, wavy hair grass, soft rush and heath rush, with patches of wet heath where cross-leaved heath is present. Areas of woodland and scrub fringe the site. On the northern edge of the common is a pool with open water and emergent vegetation.
A management plan was first prepared for Barlaston and Rough Close Common in 1992 and the site has been managed in accordance with this document ever since. The site was declared as a Local Nature Reserve in 2000.
The Council has been able to include the site and its management under Higher Level Stewardship Scheme a government grant funded application. This has enabled many management tasks to be undertaken to recreate and restore some of the heathland habitats. These have included scrapes and the re-sowing of heather brash on Rough Close, the control of Bracken and gorse and the maintenance of woodland.
For centuries, livestock grazing helped to maintain the character of some of our familiar landscapes, such as heathland. On Barlaston and Rough Close Common Local Nature Reserve, the principal habitat is wet heathland. Left unmanaged, wet heath becomes dominated by closely packed tussocks of grass and suffers from scrub invasion. Eventually, this process will result in the loss of the heath as the habitat reverts to woodland. Reinstatement of grazing should gradually reverse this situation.
After a lengthy public consultation and application process to DEFRA permission was granted to fence the common in order to graze it. The project received funds from SITA Trust, through the Landfill Communities Fund and through Countryside Stewardship payments from Natural England. In 2008 we first welcomed cattle on to the site.
Our grazier brings the Red Poll cattle on site every April. Around ten cows are present until the autumn. Red Polls are a hardy breed of cow with the reputation of a gentle temperament. After four years of grazing a number of plant species have been recorded for the first time on the site. Long term monitoring is taking place and so far the indications are really positive with plenty of newly regenerating heather.