Greensand Trust defends felling at Rushmere Country Park's Oak Wood

With residents raising concerns about the felling of trees  in Rushmere Country Park’s Oak Wood area, the Greensand Trust has defended its decision as it battles against climate change.

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 3:55 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 3:56 pm

Folk in LBO land have been discussing issues via social media, including claims that the removal of pine trees at the Heath and Reach site will mean wildlife will lose their homes in favour of the proposed heathland, while one lady questioned why the trust could not obtain a new field for the area.

However, the trust has defended its decision to fell within its Oak Wood area, stating that it is seeking to restore more species-rich habitats that will also absorb CO2.

There have been several discussions on social media about the trust’s actions.

Rushmere Country Park

One resident claimed: “Trees are vital! As the biggest plants on the planet, they give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give life, food and shelter to the world’s wildlife and birds. In the 100 years that they’ve stood here, they’ve become homes to woodpeckers, song thrushes, kites, badgers, squirrels, hedgehogs and muntjac deer, to name a few.

“With Leighton Buzzard rapidly expanding and the threat of the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway still threatening to plough through the edge of Stockgrove, Rushmere and Woburn, surely the pollution within this area is only going to increase?”

The woman also asked several questions, including how much would the trust receive via the sale of trees, and how much would go into heathland restoration and replanting.

Determined to alleviate any concerns members of the public may have, a Greensand Trust spokeswoman said: “The Greensand Trust has carried out felling work within Rushmere Country Park’s Oak Wood area as part of our ongoing conservation work, in line with the site’s conservation management plan.

“We assure you that this work is essential to creating a better natural environment.

“As a conservation charity, The Greensand Trust is seeking to develop and restore more species-rich habitats.

“The Rushmere site was previously managed as a commercial woodland, which is why much of the planting is dense and relatively uniform - woodland of this type makes relatively poor wildlife habitat and is not native.

“Oak Wood consists primarily of pine and spruce plantations planted approximately 60 years ago, with few native oaks or other trees. The plantations do not support much in terms of diversity of wildlife and vegetation, so we are seeking to restore part of this area into a mosaic of heathland with scattered trees and native woodland.

“Conifer plantations support very little wildlife in comparison to the heathland that we are attempting to restore, which supports a wide variety of uncommon wildlife of significant biodiversity interest, such as bees and other species which require the open, sandy conditions that heathland provides and would not be present in heavily shaded conifer plantations.

“Heathland is a priority habitat for nature conservation due to its increasingly rare and threatened status, with much of this habitat lost through conversion to conifer plantations, as occurred here at Rushmere. The work we are carrying out at Rushmere is playing its part in conserving biodiversity and is approved by Natural England and The Forestry Commission.

“Prior to carrying out the felling work, the woodland was checked and we can categorically state that the area did not have any resident badgers, foxes or hedgehogs, and that we did not remove any bat boxes. We carried out the work at this time of year before birds begin nesting.

“There are over 400 acres of additional woodland to provide alternative habitats, as well as new habitats that will be created by the heathland.

“The Greensand Trust is a not-for-profit charity and all money from the sale of timber is used towards managing conservation work.”

In answer to the question of why can’t the heathland be planted somewhere else, the spokeswoman said: “Heathland is a habitat that requires very low levels of fertility. Most farmland, even on the sandy soils, has too high levels of fertility from fertiliser application and other agricultural improvement for it to establish. Non woodland habitats such as heathland and peatlands are also very good at storing carbon and store it indefinitely.”

In February, the Trust also began planting 800 trees near the main entrance of Rushmere Country Park. A small number of existing trees were also felled to prevent risk of them falling.