Ancient woodland at Tilgate Park set to be restored

Ancient woodland at Tilgate Park is set to be restored by removing the large presence of invasive non-native species, which threatens the future of the woodlands.

Funding has been obtained to carry out clearance of these species supported by the Woodland Trust and the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

The restoration work will begin week commencing November 29 and is expected to take several months.

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The woodland at Tilgate Park was surveyed in September 2020 and the presence of invasive non-native species was identified as a significant threat to the ancient woodland – the main species of concern being Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum) and cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) with western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) also present.

Ancient woodland at Tilgate Park is set to be restored by removing the large presence of invasive non-native species, which threatens the future of the woodlands

These species pose a threat to the ancient woodland areas by spreading rapidly, growing vigorously and casting a very heavy shade, under which the native woodland plants and tree seedlings cannot survive. Invasive species provide poorer habitat for birds and other animals and therefore woodland biodiversity is further reduced.

Restoration work will result in the development of better high-quality ancient trees and woods that can provide refuges for dependent and immobile species, but also significant and efficient carbon storage. They will become more resilient in the face of climate change, compared to younger-growth forests.

The woodland at Tilgate Park sits on the northern edge of a significantly larger forested area belonging to Forest England, approximately 30 hectares of which is designated as ancient woodland.

The restoration work will comprise six phases, with each section being completed prior to moving to the next one. The aim will be to tackle areas with the wettest ground earlier in the winter before they become too waterlogged.

For safety reasons it will be necessary to close the paths within the section being worked to the public whilst works are in progress. This will be done using barrier tape and appropriate signage.

Councillor Chris Mullins, Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, said: "This vital restoration work will help Tilgate Park’s irreplaceable native tree species grow and thrive to ensure they are preserved for the benefit of future generations.

"These precious trees are not only extremely important for storing carbon, but they are also home to a wealth of wildlife."

For more information about Tilgate Park, visit crawley.gov.uk/tilgatepark.