By Phil Belden
Conservation Advisor to the Sussex Wildlife Trust
In 2016 we reported some bad news at Pondtail Wood, a couple of miles to the east of the Sussex Wildlife Trust's headquarters at Woods Mill and Henfield. This was the illegal felling of trees in the heart of the wood and dumping of rubble to create access roads, subsequently stopped by the South Downs National Park Authority and Forestry Commission. Earlier this year we gave the news that a new owner had stepped in to buy the wood, conscious that he had to take on the liability of restoring it ... we waited.
We can now report some good news. With the wet early season and bird-nesting out of the way, early work has started on repairing the damage.
The landowner is undertaking the agreed works, working with the South Downs National Park Authority, Forestry Commission and Natural England. Under the watchful eyes of an ecologist and enforcement officer, he is currently removing a large area of “waste” dumped in the wood, and he has also undertaken some safety works, removing dangerous and overhanging trees left in situ by the previous owner when he was abruptly stopped from proceeding with his woodland clearance activities.
All seems to be going in the right direction, but early days yet, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on this. Our wish is to have, not just a repairing of the damage, but to see a full restoration, the coniferous plantation eventually replaced with the original deciduous woodland tree cover and the ground flora slowly re-emerging to its former glory. The early works are encouraging, so we are hoping for a more promising future for Pondtail Wood, for the landowner himself has stated his aim to “redeem the woodland to its former beauty and improve its biodiversity”.