BEN SIDDLE (HAS, Feb 11) praises the restoration of recent opencast sites, and he cites Oakenshaw nature reserve, between Brancepeth and Stanley Crook in County Durham, as a glowing example.

He also objects to my use of the by now traditional phrase “green desert”.

Actually, most of the open casting round here was completed 30 to 60 years ago and the so-called “restoration” of those sites ranged from the non-existent to the abysmal and fully justified my use of the phrase “green desert”.

Come and see for yourself if you don’t believe me, Mr Siddle – we have thousands of hectares round here.

Mind you, I’m all in favour of places like Oakenshaw nature reserve.

It’s a magnificent place and shows what – given sufficient goodwill and public concern – can be done with the land that would otherwise be quite worthless.

Indeed, I recall writing to HAS several years ago alluding to such possibilities elsewhere in the “green desert” – but no one in authority took any notice.

They obviously had other plans for our money – no doubt including the long-projected relief road near Whitesmocks, slap-bang through the most beautiful section of the Durham greenbelt.

(Indeed that part of the Browney Valley is in my view one of the most beautiful areas in the entire north east).

Tony Kelly, Crook.