Wildlife trust launches appeal to save Astonbury Wood
- Credit: Frieda Rummenhohl
In a bid to protect the future of an ancient woodland currently up for sale, and to retain public access to the site, a wildlife trust has launched a fundraising appeal to buy the land.
Hertfordshire County Council wants to sell Astonbury Wood, which lies east of Stevenage off the A602 near Bragbury End, as well as the Field Study Centre there.
A designated Local Wildlife Site, the woodland has existed since the 1600s and contains archaeological features, including several pits, as well as providing a rich wildlife habitat.
Aston Parish Council and members of the public are concerned the sale of the 54-acre land could lead to inappropriate development and loss of public access. A petition to the county council earlier this year, calling for a buyer who will ensure retention of the woodland and public access, amassed 1,322 signatures.
Now Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust - a wildlife conservation charity that manages nature reserves and rare habitats - has launched an appeal to raise £104,000 to buy the lease for the site and manage it for wildlife and the community.
Chief executive Lesley Davies said: “As an ancient woodland, Astonbury Wood is irreplaceable – some of the trees there will have been standing for centuries. It is a wonderful place for people to experience wildlife and we want to help keep it that way.
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"Nature is in crisis and we urgently need to protect more land for wildlife. Securing the future of wild places like Astonbury Wood is crucial for our planet and our local community.”
A fifth of the wildlife assessed in Hertfordshire’s State of Nature Report, published by the trust in 2020, is either locally extinct or threatened with extinction. The trust says habitat loss and fragmentation have sent populations plummeting.
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HCC says Astonbury Wood is being marketed locally "to give all interested parties an opportunity to express their proposals to ensure a fair process", and that "consideration will be given to the future use of the woodland and whether this will be opened to the wider community". It says selling the land on a long leasehold basis "looks to restrict use of the site".
To donate to the appeal, visit hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/astonburywood