Fundraiser launched to regrow ancient woodland on nature reserve near Petworth
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The trust is hoping to raise £110,000 to expand the common into three adjoining fields which, they hope, will increase the reserve’s scope for biodiversity. To make its vision a reality, the organisation has launched a public appeal, reassuring donors that, if the land purchase does not go ahead or the fundraiser exceeds the purchasing price, the funds will go to other reserves up and down the country.
Thanks to satellite images which showcase the ‘shadow’ of long-dead trees, experts have reason to believe one of the adjoining fields was once part of an ancient forest called Forest Copse. The trees were felled decades ago, during the Second World War, but the landscape bears its memory, with bluebells growing through the open field, and stubborn oak saplings pushing through the grass.
That means the land holds incredible potential for recovery and growth. The existing landowner has already restored hedgerows to act as wildlife corridors for bugs and birds, but a spokesperson for the Wildlife Trust said there’s much more to be done, and it’s hoped the forest might re-grow in the years to come.
The other two fields will be managed to create species-rich grasslands, which will be achieved by cutting and grazing to reduce nutrient levels. Hedgerows will be encouraged into the fields to form a scrub, which is perfect for Nightingales, Dormice and bats.
"Purchasing and restoring land is a huge commitment for the Trust. The initial purchase is costly, but we also need to commit to its ongoing management to ensure this rewilding project is a success. It’s also vital we carry out in-depth surveys to monitor the impact of our work,” the spokesperson said.
"We know the impact projects like this can have. Twenty-three years ago, we purchased arable farmland bordering Ebernoe Common (known as Butcherlands). Now, this land has one of the densest population of Nightingales in the UK with a diverse mosaic of scrubland, grassland and regenerating woodland.”