Visitors to Fingle Woods in the Dartmoor National Park in Devon are now able to explore 45km (27 miles) of newly reopened footpaths through the 825 acre site – the size of around 460 football pitches – thanks to the Woodland Trust and National Trust. It is the first time the routes have been open in 10 years.
The two charities joined forces in August 2013 to purchase and restore the woods which straddle the River Teign, with a promise that visitors would also be able to discover previously inaccessible areas of the site. So far £3m has been donated to a fundraising appeal set up by the Woodland Trust, but another £2m is desperately needed to fund the long-term restoration of the woods.
From March people will be able to follow new trails throughout the woods which will lead them to long forgotten sights including an Iron Age hill fort at Wooston Castle and the Hidden Valley at Halls Cleave. It will also provide the chance to encounter huge wood ant nests, watch for birds of prey including buzzards and sparrowhawks and spy on kingfishers and otters at the Weir Pool on the River Teign.
David Rickwood, Woodland Trust Site Manager for Devon, said: “We are over half way to our £5 million fundraising target which is fantastic after just eight months. This money will enable not only the purchase of the site but will also fund the long-term restoration of the areas of damaged ancient woodland on site.
“We will only be able to secure the long-term restoration of the woods if we reach our £5m fundraising target so every pound donated will make a real difference.”
Around two-thirds of Fingle Woods is covered in damaged ancient woodland, planted with conifers, which the charities aim to restore by gradually thinning the conifers over many decades, allowing native woodland to regenerate, increasing the habitat for species such as pied flycatcher, redstart, wood warbler and fritillary butterflies. Damaged ancient woodland makes up nearly half of the existing ancient woodland left in the UK, which is irreplaceable and covers just 2% of the landscape, restoration is the only way to protect its long-term future.
Adrian Colston, General Manager at the National Trust on Dartmoor, added: “We’re excited that visitors exploring the new pathways will be able to experience new sights, sounds and landscapes at Fingle Woods.
“Our plans for 2014 are in an advanced state and we have been very lucky and survived the recent storms better than many, so there are plenty of trees and vistas for visitors to enjoy.”
For more information, please visit this website www.nationaltrust.org.uk