Fountains Wood borders the southern edge of the estate – across the river on the far side of the attenuation ponds. Longer-term residents will recall this is where many residents used to walk dogs and enjoy what is a lovely area of natural woodland. More recently the woods have been fenced off with notices forbidding access. Some residents have understandably asked what’s going on!
As part of the original planning permission, these woods were identified as a valuable natural asset and acquired by Crest Nicholson who were required by the District Council either to maintain and preserve the woods themselves or pass them on to a “Woodland Trust” who would care for them.
We discovered that Crest have transferred the woods to an organization called the Ancient Woods Trust (AWT) – a small organisation with local Trustees who have an interest in the preservation of ancient woodland.
Representatives of the residents’ group recently arranged to meet with the AWT and we asked them what they intended to do with the woods. From our meeting we understand this is the only area of woodland that the Trust manages. Their intention is to preserve the wood in its natural state as far as is possible by closing the area off entirely to public access. The Trust has arranged for the chestnut fencing and they will reinforce this in several areas where access is still possible.
The Trust has provided the following information to explain more about their plans for Fountains Wood
Unfortunately, in England, some of our most important ecological habitats for flora and wildlife are those most damaged by unintended human activity.
Rainforests in other continents, and ancient woodland in the U.K. are particularly sensitive.
In Sussex, so called ‘ghyll woodland’ is such a problem habitat, with steep banks particularly vulnerable to trampling and foot damage from people and domestic animals such as dogs.
Close to Foundry Gardens, Fountains Wood is just such woodland, and for this reason it has no public access. This wood is privately owned and the trustees of ownership are required by law to prevent uncontrolled public access.
Fountains Wood has steeply sloping contours, very sensitive ground flora including mosses and bryophytes, which are easily damaged by footfall. Damage caused one day can take ten years to recover.
However, there are similar woodlands which do have public access! Locally, Ashenground and Bolnore Woods towards Haywards Heath, and Bedelands towards Burgess Hill have extensive pathways specially designed to allow access while minimising ecological damage.
You can check for publicly accessible woods on the Woodland Trust website:
Fencing required by Planning conditions will soon be completed in Fountains Wood. Wildlife cameras to monitor and protect wildlife are also being installed (these will detect unauthorised human access). Please be aware that trying to access Fountains Wood is Trespass, removing any materials from the wood is Theft. This article from the Woodland Trust explains more :
The contact email for the Fountains Wood management team is firstname.lastname@example.org.
We asked whether the Trust had any intention of launching any accessible information or education programme to explain why the woods are so valuable and engage the interest and support of residents and the wider public. They do intend to do so, but as yet the Trustees do not have a website of their own.
We were disappointed given that the preservation of the woods and of the extensive wildlife that inhabits these woods must be of significant interest to our residents.
We would be keen to hear your views on the subject and in the mean-time we will continue to encourage the Trust to be more outward looking.
The Beeches Life