A 52 acre site of rare ancient woodland has been saved for future generations thanks to two local residents who campaigned to keep the area for the community.
The beautiful site beside the River Yealm which joins three parish boundaries of Yealmpton, Sparkwell and Ermington at its centre, was destined to be bulldozed to make way for an access road to a proposed energy plant. When planning permission was turned down, residents Dr Chris Westwood and Neil Tugwell decided to grab a last chance at saving the site from further possible development plans. They launched an appeal to raise the £150,000 necessary to secure the site.
The site is part of only 2% of ancient woodland left in Devon and has been untouched for centuries.. It is home to more than 50 bird species including ten red-listed birds, which designates them globally threatened species.
“We delighted to say that we have succeeded,’ said Dr Chris Westwood. ‘We were given a grant of £100,000 by Centrica as part of their promise to reduce the visual impact ion their power station.
‘The remaining £50,000 for the purchase came from the Woodland Trust who have very kindly leased it back to us on condition that we buy them out in two years time. So the fight is not completely over.’
In addition, Mr Tugwell said there had been around £7,000 received in donations from members of the public which had helped fund the legal fees involved in the purchase of the site. Amongst the donors was former Plymouth Sutton MP Lord Owen.
‘The site dates back to the Bronze Age as there is evidence of settlements there,’ Mr Tugwell continued. ‘It had a chequered history in mediaeval times. Parts of the woodland were used for tin mining and you can still see some of the pits involved, tin being the plastic of its day. But because of its lack of access, it has remained largely untouched.
‘Now that it’s been saved for future generations, we want people to come here and enjoy it for what it is. There will be some guided walks and bird watching. But the main thing is to enjoy the beauty of the site and remember that you are walking in the footsteps of your ancestors.’
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