Multi million pound campaign launched to save ancient Ausewell Woods

Two of the country’s largest conservation charities are joining forces, hoping to raise £2 million to buy and restore precious ancient woodland found at Ausewell Woods, near Ashburton.

National conservation charities The Woodland Trust and The National Trust are working collaboratively to secure the future of the beautiful woods found in the Dart Valley, with plans to restore the natural ancient woodland to its former glory and allow biodiversity to flourish.

With a history of human intervention, Ausewell has been a site for mining and charcoal making, as well as the plantation of non-native conifer trees since shortly after World War Two.

Despite these interferences, the site has been continuously wooded since at least 1600, and so is home to a rich abundance of wildlife. With sites like this in decline, ancient woodlands like Ausewell cover just 4% of the UK landscape; a frightening figure in the face of climate change and species extinction.

Thankfully, The National Trust, through gift in wills, has secured part of the purchase of Ausewell Woods to help preserve it as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. However, The Woodland Trust, who are looking to take over ownership of the rest of the woodland, has £1 million left to raise to buy the remaining area before restoration work can begin.

Hoping to re-establish and enhance natural habitats found in the woodland, the two charities plan to slowly remove the non-native trees found in the woods, allowing plants and trees from former woodland species to recover.

Alex Raeder, the National Trust’s South West Conservation Manager, said; “Ausewell Wood is an astonishingly beautiful place and the mix of heathland and wooded habitats provide habitat for redstarts and places for rare lichens to thrive.”

Also home to key species such as cuckoos, lesser spotted woodpeckers, pied flycatchers and the elusive hazel dormouse, the 342 acre site is a refuge for both plants and mammals, and the charities hope to nurture and monitor wildlife during their future work.

While the charities’ collaborative efforts are allowing “our actions to be stronger and our combined voices even louder”, Ross Kennerley (The Woodland Trust’s South West Regional Director) explains how the Trusts hope to involve other organisations and landowners in “linking areas across Dartmoor to deliver a more connected landscape for wildlife”.

Having previously worked together to ensure the future of nearby Fingle Woods near Drewsteignton, the charities have aims to allow public access to Ausewell woods in the future, with “low-key” routes helping to “look after the wildlife that everyone values so highly”.

For now, The Woodland Trust’s appeal to help ensure the survival of the endangered and struggling plants and animals at Ausewell is in full swing, and donations can be made towards the purchase of the woods by visiting woodlandtrust.org,uk/lostworld

PHOTO CREDIT: credit Phil Formby/WTML

Rebecca Smith

Author: Rebecca Smith

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