A section of land in Penryn, west Cornwall, has been declared ancient woodland following a campaign to get it protected from future development.

Natural England has confirmed that the Ancient Woodland Inventory had been amended to include a section of College Wood.

However, there was "insufficient evidence" submitted to include the area to the east of the railway line, which was described as not having "wooded continuity," or another nearby area that was "mostly open land".

Dr Marion Bryant, from Natural England, has written to former Penryn town councillor Rich Mitchell with confirmation, following his campaign to designate part of College Valley as ancient woodland in the hope it could be taken in to account in any planning applications.

Forestry Journal: The area woodland to be included in the inventory. Image: Natural England/Ordnance Survey.The area woodland to be included in the inventory. Image: Natural England/Ordnance Survey.

Dr Bryant said ancient woodlands were defined as woods that have existed continuously since 1600AD, with such sites making up approximately 2.6 per cent of England.

They includes two categories: ancient semi-natural woods, which are predominantly native trees and shrubs, and plantations on ancient woodland sites – known as PAWS – where the natural tree canopy has been felled and replanted with plantation species, but which could be restored back to ancient semi-natural woodland.

Ancient woodland is protected under the National Planning Policy Framework, which gives planners guidance when deciding on development.

Regarding the area to the west of the railway line, Dr Bryant said woodland was shown on maps from 1880 onwards and was likely to have existed earlier than this, with a map from 1580 showing the entire area immediately surrounding this part of Penryn to be wooded.

Forestry Journal: The areas not being included as ancient woodland. Image: Natural England.The areas not being included as ancient woodland. Image: Natural England.

She added: "A field walkover was undertaken by Leon Nixon in 2019 which found six ancient woodland indicator species present: ramsons, bluebell, wood sorrel, wood anemone, pendulous sedge and pignut.

"A field survey by Tamar Ecology in 2015 also found wood speedwell and sanicle, bringing the total number of ancient woodland indicator species to eight.

"While this is not a very high number, these woods are both relatively small and isolated in a more intensively managed landscape, and the woodland type of western oak woods, is not generally associated with very high numbers of indicator plants.

"Therefore one would not necessarily expect to find significantly higher numbers in such circumstances."

Dr Bryant said Penryn College Wood was not considered suitable for inclusion on the original inventory because the previous criteria did not look at woods under two hectares, and Penryn was about 1.6 hectares.

However, woodland above 0.25 hectares was now considered for review.

This story first appeared in the Falmouth Packet.

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