By Annie Riddle

DOG WALKERS at Old Sarum have begun a campaign to save a number of young trees from the chainsaw.

They claim scrub clearance work ordered by English Heritage is destroying the monument's atmosphere and they are urging anyone who loves the landmark to become involved by telephoning to register a protest.

However, English Heritage claims the work is necessary to safeguard the chalk embankments from erosion and says it will be better for wildlife.

Spearheading the protest is Mo Vines, of Winterbourne Gunner, who walks her six lurchers at Old Sarum twice a day and owns a field just below it.

She was distraught at what she described as the desecration of the ancient site.

"It seems they are systematically clearing the scrubland below the outer ring on the western side, between the two kissing gates," she said.

"They have already sent in the chainsaws. It's an area full of hazel, ash, sycamore, hawthorn, and lots of brambles.

"It's pretty impenetrable - only wildlife and dogs can get in there. But there's lots of ground cover for birds. There's shelter for them in the winter and shade when it's hot. Nightingales have even been recorded there in the summer.

"I was in tears on Friday when I saw what they'd done."

"I think, ultimately, they want to graze it. It will be low maintenance. But they haven't taken into consideration what local people want. At Figsbury Rings they have taken everything out so it's just grassland, and that's what I am worried the plan is for Old Sarum."

English Heritage, however, is anxious to promote the benefits of its scrub clearance operation.

Beth Cavanagh, head of visitor operations for Wiltshire and Dorset said: "This was not a hasty decision.

"We have been carrying out this type of work at Old Sarum for some time.

"We want to improve the area. Scrub lets in no light to the ground, the grass dies off, as do flowers, and you end up with bare earth underneath.

"We are re-seeding as we go, but it takes a while for the grass to re-establish. This is for the long-term future and maintenance of the monument. We are not taking out mature trees."

She added: "Way back in the Iron Age it would have been clear of scrub, because it was a fortification and an observation point."