Tree planting is under way as part of a major restoration project at an ancient woodland site in north Wiltshire.

Great Wood, near Grittenham, is more than 400-years-old and spans 175 acres.

After five decades of use as a commercial logging site, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust (WWT) bought the land in 2023 to turn it into a nature reserve.

Work is set to be completed by the spring but the multi-million pound project needs a further £30,000 to return the wood to it's full potential.

James Ravine, 55, head of fundraising, marketing and communications at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, said the team had been "changing the character of the wood".

He added: "Over the last 50 years it's been commercially managed so a lot of non-native conifers have been planted for commercial logging purposes.

"They (conifers) don't support a great deal of native wildlife so we are gradually going through a programme of replacing the conifers with native deciduous trees particularly oak, field maple, hornbeam, rowan and wych elm which will improve the biodiversity of the woodland.

"We're also opening up some of the area that's previously been planted to conifers to provide woodland glades.

"A lot of species in woodlands prefer that marginal habitat so by removing the conifers we're opening up large swathes of the woodland to provide that varied habitat."

The WWT bought the woodland after securing a Biffa Award of £2.1m with additional funding provided by donations.

The first ecological surveys in decades have uncovered a number of species living in the woodland.

Mr Ravine said: "Great crested newts, white admiral butterflies, willow warblers, goshawks and many other species are living across the woodland.

"Now we're doing a lot of work to restore the woodland to it's former glory to enable more of those species to flourish again and to attract back species that have been absent for a long time."

The project aims to benefit the people of Wiltshire as well as the wildlife.

Mr Ravine said: "We want people to be able to come here and enjoy the woodland.

"See the new wildlife and to improve their wellbeing, and there will be a lot of sessions for children in forest school and for the new natural history GCSE.

"There are no public rights of way across the woodland and the reason we are keeping it for guided activities only is so the wildlife is undisturbed and for people who are coming here for guided activities, such as wellbeing, they need that peace."

Mr Ravine added that "it would be fantastic" if people could help raise the additional £30,000 to complete the project.

2024-02-12T09:56:04Z dg43tfdfdgfd