An historic woodland has been officially opened to the public for the first time after a 12-year restoration project.
Dame Helen Ghosh, director general of the National Trust, cut the ribbon to open Sheffield Park and Garden, near Uckfield, on Thursday afternoon (June 22).
The National Trust purchased the area of woodland on the north east side of the garden at Sheffield Park in 1982 in the hope of providing a windbreak for the garden.
For twenty years, the woodland was left to its own devices, until 2002 when park and garden manager Andy Jesson began a woodland management plan to create better light levels to increase the number and quality of bluebells encouraging biodiversity.
Andy said: “In 2002 we started this project because we realised the historical context of this site was more important.
“We started off just working weekends until we built up a strong team of volunteers who helped turn the land into what it is today.
“The various trails on this site are about a mile and a half long but it is built in such a way that walkers can take shortcuts back.
“The site will now be open until the end of September before we start the Autumn Colour.
“At this event, we could see as many as 8,000 people coming to view the gardens. At that time of year, we have a lot of colour on show and the bluebells are extremely popular.
“Then we will reopen the site in the winter.”
It was discovered that Walk Wood in particular has a great historical significance with remains of planting and paths going back to the original 18th century design for the garden.
Up until now, visitors have had access only through organised walks to see the bluebells, butterflies or historic features, but this year the woodland is open to the public for the first time.
Local artist Keith Pettit was commissioned to create a series of sculptures using natural materials, predominantly sourced from the woods themselves.
He said: “The spiral theme that runs through many of the works is a representation of the life cycle of the woods and the Fibonacci sequence that is the mathematics of life.”
The restoration work has taken many hours of input from staff, volunteers and contractors.
Volunteer Alan Young added: “I have been helping out for about a year now and I enjoy it because it allows me time to spend outdoors.
“I have been a lifelong member of the National Trust and I felt that I wanted to help contribute to this site with a number of jobs.”