AN AMBITIOUS £1.5million fund-raising campaign has been launched to to return an ancient Bromsgrove woodland to its former glory by doubling it in size.
The Woodland Trust is looking to buy up 125 acres of farmland next to the 133-acre Pepper Wood it already owns in Fairfield.
More than 35,000 new trees could be planted, creating a continuous 250-acre patch, providing new much-needed havens for wildlife.
It comes at a time when masses of ancient woodland up and down the country is at risk of being destroyed to make way for the HS2 railway.
Pepper Wood is ancient semi-natural woodland, meaning that – dominated by oak and birch – it has been there for at least 400 years.
It was bought by the trust in the early 1980s and forms part of the Feckenham Forest Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), considered nationally important for its oak-dominated woodland, unimproved meadows and bird and invertebrate communities.
Historically the wood was coppice managed – cyclically allowed to grow before being chopped back for commercial use but much of the site was felled during the timber shortages of the 1940s meaning a lot of the ecological importance was lost.
Since reintroducing a traditional coppice cycle with the help of committed volunteers, the Woodland Trust has greatly improved the biodiversity of the woodland, creating structure within the canopy and a variety of habitats where wildlife can thrive.
The land the trust hopes to buy directly borders Pepper Wood’s northern boundary.
Acquiring it would create important protection for the ancient wood, provide a wealth of new habitat and create a significantly more resilient woodland overall.
If the appeal is successful the trust hopes to start creating the areas of new woodland in the 2022 to 2023 planting season and is looking to complete planting by the end of 2025.
The appeal comes amidst the Woodland Trust launching its Big Climate Fightback where it is urging the public to buy and plant trees during November.
And the organisation has unveiled an ambitious aim to plant 50million more trees by 2025 – a fifth of what the Government’s Committee for Climate Change recommended the UK needs to help tackle the environmental crisis.
Toby Bancroft, the Woodland Trust’s Regional Director for central England, said: “Pepper wood is a beautiful habitat that is treasured by visitors.
“Centuries ago the woodland used to stretch across the arable land that is there today.
“By looking to extend this site we would be returning this to woodland as it once was.
“We are in a climate and nature crisis and planting more trees is the natural solution.
“We believe buffering and protecting our valuable ancient woodlands, which represent just 2.5 per cent of land in use left in the UK, is a really good place for some of the extra trees we so desperately need.”
He urged people to get behind the drive and help the trust towards its target of planting 50million trees in the next five years.
Visit woodlandtrust.org.uk/pepperappeal to back the campaign.