Images from a local wood that is being destroyed

Please read this blog post for an update, including further images of the damage.

This morning, on my daily walk, I was shocked to discover that a local stand of woodland is in the process of being bulldozed.

Most mornings for the last three years, I’ve walked past a small stand of scrubby woodland between a caravan park and a fishing lake. I’ve seen no evidence that it’s ancient woodland; most of the trees seem to be no more than a few decades old, but it’s dense and impenetrable at one end, an unyielding wall of thorn. Towards the far end the vegetation is more open, the trees more mature.

A place for subtle autumn moods
A wealth of berries – food for birds, and for foraging walkers
This hedge no longer exists

In most years this wood is where I see the first hawthorn leaves uncurl, heralding the coming spring. It’s also a rich place for wildflowers, butterflies and other invertebrates. There’s usually a blackbird or two piping up somewhere in the depths. Late in the year, after the vegetation has died back, dead nettles delight me with their variegated patterns amongst the fallen leaves.

Look down
Spring 2018

Yesterday I walked past this wood and all was normal. This morning I walked past to find one end of it completely obliterated.

My head torch lit up the side of a bulldozer parked in the middle of the public footpath. The footpath itself, once a narrow squeeze between shrubs, had been expanded to the width of an articulated truck. To my right, where there had been a tight hedge of hawthorn and rose bushes only the previous day, I saw a massive pile of smashed dead wood at least four metres high. Shrubs, bushes and trees had been obliterated and pushed up into an embankment, as if the wood itself were being forced back by the machines. A strip of ground several metres wide – ground where I had admired those beautiful dead nettles a few months before – had been churned up into a foul soup of mud and wood splinters.

Record shot of the destruction, 16 January 2020. I'll be back in daylight to get a better picture
Record shot of the destruction, 16 January 2020. I’ll be back in daylight to get a better picture

It was a horrible, jarring shock. A solastalgic punch to the gut. I listened for the pip, pip of the blackbird I usually heard in that wood each morning, but heard nothing.

In a day’s work, the bulldozer has destroyed what I’d estimate to be about 10% of the wood. Will it continue its work today? I don’t know. I do know that the older trees and the more varied biodiversity are towards the other end, farthest from the devastation, so there’s a chance that something of this small but valuable scrap of habitat will be saved. But the destruction is already immense.

As woods go, this one isn’t much, but it was something, and now it’s less than it was yesterday.

(One more thought. Is it a coincidence that this wood is right next to the footpath where I’ve been having so many access issues in recent years?)

The location. © Crown copyright 2020 Ordnance Survey. Media 014/20 The licence is valid until 31 December 2020.
This is the other end of the wood, farthest from the bulldozer. It’s a precious habitat. Will it survive?
This is the last photograph I took of the wood before the damage. Most of the trees in this image have now been destroyed

By Alex Roddie

Award-winning outdoor and nature writer, editor, author, and photographer.


You must report this immediately to your local Forestry Commission office. It is possible permission has been obtained, either via the Forestry Act 1967 or from the local planning authority but without a Felling Licence, only 5m3 per calendat quarter can be felled, as long as no more thsan 2m3 is sold. Action please! Good luck! Hugh Milner, Woodland Agent (Ex FC).

Thanks, Alastair. I suspect I’ve hid a roadblock in terms of what can be done, but the good news is that I’m fairly sure there will be no further damage to the wood – it’s the local drainage board ‘improving access’.

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