Trust celebrates improved woodland


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The Independent Online

A large tract of ancient woodland has been restored towards its natural state, six years after it was bought in a £1.5 million fund-raising appeal, the Woodland Trust said.

The trust is marking the sixth anniversary of its successful bid to buy Wentwood Forest, the largest remaining ancient forest in Wales, backed by more than 15,000 people and high profile supporters including Dame Judi Dench and Bill Bryson.

It has now completed the first phase of the restoration which involves thinning the forest - which has been planted with conifers over the years - to provide space and light for native species of trees such as oak, beech and hazel.

But the Woodland Trust has not clear-felled large areas of woodland as it would prove too much of a shock for the fragile native ground plants, such as ferns, which still exist in the forest.

The trust, which is pushing for restoration of ancient woodlands which have been planted with conifers across the UK, has removed around a fifth of the conifers from 300 hectares (740 acres) of the 350 hectare site (870 acres).

The extra light and space has allowed regeneration of native species, while the Trust has also been planting acorns - with the help of schoolchildren - to increase the number of oaks in the forest.

Barry Embling, who is now responsible for the management of Wentwood, said: "Over the past five years we've removed tens of thousands of tonnes of conifer trees, creating much improved habitats for the whole range of wildlife associated with ancient woodland, including dormouse, pipistrelle bat, song thrush and bullfinch.

"Other declining and nationally rare species which should benefit from the restoration include wood warbler, willow tit, cuckoo, tree pipit, goshawk and badger."

It has not been all plain sailing for the trust, with thousands of pounds spent on clearing up fly-tipping, but Mr Embling said that by closing off some of the tracks to vehicles and working with its neighbours, it has managed to significantly reduce the problem.

Work to remove conifers will continue into the future, including removing trees in areas with currently very young conifers which have not yet been thinned.

The purchase and restoration project was supported by more than 15,000 people and funding was also provided by the Tubney Trust, GrantScape, and the Countryside Council for Wales.