A new, permanent woodland is planned for a rewilding project in Calne, Wiltshire.

The 34 acres of land at Hazeland has been purchased and forest cleared post-1945 will be restored with a mix of planting and rewilding, and a further ten acres of existing ancient woodland will be managed to maximise biodiversity and tree health.

Four acres of riverside meadow will be managed for pollinators and other declining UK species.

“We know that critically endangered bat species use this river corridor for roosting and foraging” said Nikki Jones, chair and founder of Avon Needs Trees.

“We’ll be managing the site to give them maximum help and using citizen scientists to help monitor the numbers.

"We’ll be doing the same for the many woodland birds, butterflies, plants and fungi we’ve identified at Hazeland, that we know are in steep decline in the UK.

"All these species are part of our ‘web of life’: we need them – and we’re enormously grateful to all our funders, particularly the National Lottery Heritage Fund, for giving ANT the opportunity to help protect them.”

Avon Needs Trees is a Bristol-based charity, founded in 2019. It is on a 20-year mission to create permanent woodland in the catchment of the River Avon.

Funding for this first purchase has come from the public, local companies such as Natracare and Bristol Energy Company, and a grant of £240,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Nikki continued: “The Avon catchment area has almost no woodland left. That puts us at tremendous risk of flooding, as well as adding to our carbon and wildlife loss.

"As individuals, we realise we are just ‘ants’ in the face of our climate change and biodiversity crises but together ants can do big things!

"We’re thrilled to have taken ownership of our first piece of land, Hazeland, which is a really rich and varied mix of habitats, including ancient woodland and wildflower meadows.

Local schools, GP surgeries, walking and ‘green’ groups will be using Hazeland for a variety of activities.

The Springfields Academy, a specialist school for children with autism in Calne, is one of them.

"We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to use Hazeland for our ‘outdoor learning’, a key daily part of our activities,” says Learning Mentor Ann Berrett.

“Our children come from a very wide area and, at the moment, we have to travel long distances to get to suitable woodland. Being able to use Hazeland is brilliant for us – less travel, more time in the open air, less money spent on fuel – and a lower carbon footprint, which is very important to us.”

Avon Needs Trees is already looking to its next land purchase and has recently launched a crowdfunder to help buy 19 acres at Seend, near Melksham.

The charity is hoping to raise £200,000 for Seend before Spring 2021.

This story first appeared in the Wiltshire Times.

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