RANGERS have launched a mammoth project to restore a threatened area of “lost” woods the size of the Isle of Wight.

The Woodland Trust says a 400 square kilometre area of woods stretching from Pulborough to Lewes is in poor condition after decades of chopping.

So its Lost Woods of the Low Weald and Downs project aims to restore these forests to their former glory by encouraging landowners to improve the condition of the woods and create new habitat.

The project aims to ensure everyone in Sussex has access to woods, said project manager Ed Goodall.

“This is very much an area that has been forgotten from an ecological point of view - where tree cover has been chipped away over time,” he said.

“The woods have the ability to be a home and important sanctuary to much more wildlife than they currently support if they are looked after in the right way, making sure we are doing our bit in Sussex to combat the global ecological crisis.

The Argus: Rangers hope to reconnect fragmented woods so wildlife can move freely throughout SussexRangers hope to reconnect fragmented woods so wildlife can move freely throughout Sussex

“It’s in desperate need of this project to stimulate conservation work and raise the profile of this area.

“Its importance as a corridor between these amazing landscapes will be hugely beneficial.

“We aim to inspire landowners and communities by the nature that is on their doorstep.

“By interacting with it responsibly, people will have learned new skills and understood the importance of making space for nature.”

The trust says the area is now dominated by agriculture.

Remaining woods are often small and in poor condition, battered by a combination of disease, invasive species, and poor management which fails to prioritise the ecological benefits of forests.

So the project focuses on increasing the size of these fragmented sites and eventually reconnecting them so wildlife can thrive and move throughout Sussex.

Rangers also plan to painstakingly record every ancient, veteran, and notable tree in the area.

The Argus: The project is funded by the National LotteryThe project is funded by the National Lottery

Sussex Wildlife Trust chief executive Tor Lawrence said the project will be valuable in terms of the impact on the environment and human health.

“A strong Sussex network of healthy woodlands is vital going forwards and we are thrilled to be part of such an innovative project connecting our woodlands and bringing people to their local woodlands,” she said.

“”The importance of woodlands and trees has never had so much recognition, from wildlife value, their role in flood reduction, carbon sequestration and physical and mental wellbeing.”

The project has been kick-started with a £347,000 National Lottery grant. It plans to apply for another £1.9 million at a later date.

Action in Rural Sussex and the Small Woods Association are also partners in the project.