Norleywood villagers oppose conifer clearance scheme at New Forest beauty spot

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The Forestry Commission has unveiled tree felling plans at Norley Wood

USERS of the popular Norleywood inclosure are angry at plans to deforest an area of the site by cutting down conifer trees, claiming that it will be “completely destroyed”.

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The Forestry Commission (FC) has confirmed its intention to cut down trees covering a 1.49-hectare plot over the next five years to create what they say will be a “more diverse, open area” which will encourage the growth of wildflowers.

But worried residents of the hamlet, which is in Boldre, say Norleywood inclosure should be left alone and hit out at the lack of consultation before the decision was made.

On its website, the Norleywood and District Society revealed: “We believe there is sufficient open habitat in the south of the New Forest already, and do not want to lose the woodland environment. We are hoping that the Forestry Commission respond by visiting and consulting with villagers before any decisions are made.

“It has apparently been a long-running process by the FC that included organisations and local parish councillors as stakeholders; but in a quite extraordinary twist, they didn’t include any residents or resident societies. This has meant that it was pure chance we found out this year right at the end of the planning process.

“It is our view that this is wrong – the process is flawed. Norleywood is unique because it is situated so close to the village and is a vital part of our history and heritage, as well as providing a beauty spot for thousands of people enjoying walking, cycling, orienteering and horse riding in their spare time. You simply cannot remove the village backyard without a valid mandate.”

The Forestry Commission’s management plans for Norley Wood

Worried users of Norleywood took to social media to complain about the removal of the trees.

Louise Cranton posted on Facebook: “I love this wood, we need smaller inclosures. Mine and lots of other children have learnt to ride in here before braving the open forest. It feels safe and secure. Dog walkers use it, nervous riders use it and it gives the Forest character to have different areas.”

Steve Armstrong posted: “Norleywood is one of the jewels in the crown that is the New Forest. Do we really need another open treeless space that will just become another faceless part of the forest? Norleywood is special for many reasons – just leave it alone and stop tinkering.”

Sonia Lorenzo-Martin, head of planning and environment for the FC’s team in the area, said the aim was to enhance the forest’s special habitats by making them more resilient to pests, diseases and other threats, such as climate change.

“The aim is to create a healthy woodland area with good structure that will improve habitat for the wildlife in the area and make Norleywood inclosure more diverse in terms of the variety in age and species of trees.

“An area of 1.49 hectares of conifer trees is proposed to be removed over the next 5 years; this will create a more diverse, open area allowing more light into the ground and promoting the growth of wildflowers, the seeds of which are lying dormant in the ground.

“Many plants and wildlife will benefit, including lichen, fungi and bats. However, it will take some time, the work planned to take place over the next 10 years will be the first small steps in implementing a vision of how the woodlands of the New Forest should function in 200 years’ time.

“Broadly, the vision indicates a long-term transition to more native woodland, increasing areas of ancient pasture woodland and some restoration of heathland habitats.

“Although the proportion of native trees will slowly increase, conifers will continue to be a valuable component of the New Forest inclosures for many decades.”

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