Woodland Restoration Project
Our Woodland’s History
Our woodland was originally part of a much larger forest known as Anderida, which covered much of Kent and Sussex during Roman times.
In the 16th Century, Henry VIII took down most of the big oak trees to build his warships. There was also a thriving local iron industry, making canons for his ships.
Our woodland was used to grow ash trees which produced charcoal to fuel the iron furnaces. We have several old iron pits in our woodland, which fill up with water, creating ponds during the winter months. In the spring these are surrounded by beautiful bluebells and orchids.
An Outbreak of Ash Dieback
Ash dieback disease or Chalara, is an airborne fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus which originated in eastern Asia. It arrived in the UK in 2012, and we saw the first signs in 2014.
The leaves start to turn black and then fall off. The fungus grows inside the tree and eventually kills it. It is expected over the next 10 years that the disease will kill more than 80% of the ash trees in the UK.
In October 2019, the woodland officer confirmed that our trees were infected with ash dieback disease. Some were more advanced than others, but as the disease progresses the trees become brittle and dangerous, and we were advised to start felling ‘sooner rather than later’.
Project to Save Our Woodlands
We started the forestry work in January 2020 to remove the trees immediately surrounding our woodland yurts and cabins.
The very wet winter made the work extremely difficult and slow but we finally managed to get the site ready in time for the first lockdown.
We started replanting immediately and saw much regeneration over the spring and summer. We reopened our woodland holiday accommodations briefly in July and August but we closed down again in September to begin the next phase of felling.
By the end of October 2020, we had finished removing all the diseased ash trees and were able to start re-landscaping before the inevitable winter rain set in. We managed to get the site ready again in time for lockdown!
Whilst it was heart-breaking to see our beloved trees coming down, it was encouraging to see what was left, as it was in leaf. We still have a great variety of native trees including oaks, beech, birch, maple, alder, yew and pine, and a healthy understory of hazel, hawthorn, holly.
We have now started an extensive programme of replanting a variety native trees including beech, birch, rowan, alder, hornbeam, cherry, maple and oak.
For the lower canopy, we have planted hazel, willow, hawthorn, aspen, willow and dogwood.
We have also introduced some fruit trees below the woodland workshop creating a soft boundary between the Forest Garden and the woodland. We will continue to replant and manage our woodland for future generations to enjoy!
If you would like to donate a tree to help restore our woodland, please visit our JustGiving page.
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We hope that we will be able to reopen our woodland holiday accommodation to the public soon. To find out more about our woodland restoration project, or to keep up to date with our reopening plans, please use the online contact form to sign up to our newsletters.