Community Woodland Opens in Leicestershire

A six hectare woodland delivered by Whiting and created with support from the local community, was officially opened in May in the presence of residents, parish councillors, National Forest representatives and project partners.

The launch of the Penny Wakefield Community Woodland to the east of Ellistown village in Leicestershire celebrates the culmination of a two year project that has seen developers, engineers, National Forest staff, environmental stakeholders and the local community working in partnership. The aim of the scheme has been to deliver an exceptional community asset that meets planning and engineering requirements for what has been a critical development and employment project.

The project faced many challenges, not least finding ways to integrate the objectives of replacing the trees and hedgerows lost to the development, creating new National Forest woodland and providing a structure to address drainage requirements for the new 1.4 m² warehouse buildings adjacent to the site. At the same time, the scheme needed to provide screening and a long-term sustainable woodland resource that would enhance the Ellistown community.

12,000 trees and shrubs were planted and 800m of access pathways installed, linking the woodland to the local community and the wider public access network. Bat, bird and owl boxes, numerous wildlife hibernacula, interpretation signs, a community orchard and wildlife sculptures were also installed and benches were created using the timber from trees that had to be felled on site.

Philip Metcalfe of The National Forest commented: “This project represents precisely the sort of scheme that we are trying to achieve in the Forest; a place where woodland can deliver habitat, access and landscape benefits to the communities on its doorstep.”

The local community, and in particular local councillor Keith Merrie and the Parish Council, have been involved throughout, supporting and challenging the project team to help shape and guide the scheme. The late Penny Wakefield was one of the councillors involved during the early discussions and it was felt that naming the woodland after her would be a fitting tribute and conclusion to the development. Penny is now celebrated on the site with a memorial plaque.

(Photographs courtesy of Darren Cresswell, copyright National Forest Company)