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Fears for Sussex's ancient woodland
Thousands of acres of Sussex woodland are under threat of destruction.
Sussex has amongst the highest coverage of woodland in the country, however almost a fifth of our ancient woodlands are in danger of disappearing altogether – according to the Woodland Trust.
Some of Sussex ancient woodlands could date back to the last Ice Age and be up to 10,000 years old.
Across Sussex 15,417 hectares out of our 85,000 hectares of woodland are at risk, however the trust hopes a new campaign will see some of the 5,633 HA in jeopardy in East Sussex and 9,784 in West Sussex safeguarded.
East Sussex has the highest proportion of ancient woodland in the country, but has also suffered the most threats and biggest losses of trees in the last decade, according to the trust.
And despite 21.4% of West Sussex being covered in woodland, the figures show 40 ancient woodlands have been threatened in East Sussex, with eight already lost or damaged and 15 still under threat.
In West Sussex 38 ancient woods have come under threat, nine of which have already been lost or irreparably damaged.
Areas of land that have been continually wooded since 1600AD are classified as “ancient woodland”, but since the 1930s they have been halved by agriculture, development and the planting of non-native species like conifers.
The woods are considered to be particularly important as they are a vital habitat for threatened species such as bluebells, wood anemones and celandines The Government is preparing a response to the Independent Panel on Forestry’s (IPF) recommendations to keep, and even increase, the amount of native woodland in the country.
David Banks, co-founder of Sussex’s Keep Our Forests Public campaign, said: “The IPF has made a robust defence of the public forest estate and I’m very pleased indeed.
“I take that as a real tribute to the overall strength and staying power to the grass roots, or tree roots, campaign to keep the public forests.
“I think the people on the panel were significantly shifted, but they didn’t shift far enough.
“The great omission from the recommendations is the obvious historical omission of making woodland statutory accessible, just as it is over great swathes of Europe.
“Pretty much the only places the public can freely enjoy are run by the forestry commission.”
About 10% of East Sussex is covered in woodland and 18.7% of people live near a wood they walk in.
The Woodland Trust said: “However, this is still not enough and the IPF has recommended an increase an increase in both woodland cover generally and access to Woodland by 2060 to ensure opportunities are increased for everyone to enjoy and benefit from all that it has to offer.”
The trust’s head of campaigning, Nikki Williams, said: “In the last two years it has been proven that public passion for woodland is strong.
“We are asking people to tell Owen Paterson, new secretary of state for the environment to protected and expand our woodland.”
To support the campaign to save Sussex’s ancient woodland visit woodlandtrust.org.uk.