Appeal to save Astonbury Wood is successful
- Credit: Frieda Rummenhohl
The future of an ancient woodland can now be secured after a wildlife charity's fundraising appeal to buy the 54-acre site reached its £104,000 target.
Astonbury Wood, which lies to the east of Stevenage off the A602 near Bragbury End, was put up for sale by the owner Hertfordshire County Council last year, prompting concerns within the community that it could lead to inappropriate development and loss of public access.
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.
Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust - a wildlife conservation charity that manages nature reserves and rare habitats - launched an appeal in May to buy the lease for the site and manage it for wildlife and the community.
The charity said it had to raise the funds by the end of July to secure the purchase. In just six weeks, with more than 1,300 donations, more than £107,000 has so far been raised and the wildlife trust says it will now begin the process of purchasing the long-term lease for the wood.
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The trust's chief executive, Lesley Davies, said: “We are thrilled with the support we have received, and are continuing to receive, from the community, and totally blown away by their generosity.
"Ancient woodlands like Astonbury Wood are completely irreplaceable and we are very proud the public have backed our bid to buy the lease for this important site.
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"We hope we’ll be able to welcome people to the trust’s newest reserve before too long."
One-fifth of the wildlife assessed in Hertfordshire’s State of Nature Report, published by the trust in 2020, is currently either locally extinct or threatened with extinction. Habitat loss and fragmentation have sent populations plummeting. The report concludes that at least 30 per cent of land must be protected for wildlife in order to combat the ecological and climate crisis.
The Astonbury Wood fundraising campaign will remain open until the end of July and additional funds raised will be used to care for the wood and the trust’s other nature reserves.
To donate, visit hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/astonburywood