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Covert Wood near Canterbury bought by Kent Wildlife Trust after successful fundraising appeal

A precious ancient Kent wood has been ‘saved’ for future generations to enjoy after an appeal by a wildlife charity raised a staggering £462,500 in just four months.

It follows the purchase of the 64-acre Covert Wood at Barham near Canterbury by Kent Wildlife Trust whose conservationists feared it could have been carved up or not managed properly if it fell into private hands.

Covert Wood is being bought by Kent Wildlife Trust
Covert Wood is being bought by Kent Wildlife Trust

Now the Trust is celebrating its new ownership after its appeal was kickstarted with a £100,000 gift from a private donor and then received more than 1,000 smaller donations to make up the purchase price.

Head of land management at Kent Wildlife Trust, Simon Bateman-Brown, says he is delighted the charity has hit its target thanks to the overwhelming generosity of supporters.

“As we celebrate our 65th anniversary, it is the best present imaginable,” he said

“Covert Wood offers a significant opportunity to connect fragmented woodland habitats, vital for species such as woodpeckers and nightingales.

“By running the site as a nature reserve we will benefit the wildlife there and also work towards connecting the landscape for nature, something that our wildlife depleted country desperately needs.”

Covert Wood is being bought by Kent Wildlife Trust
Covert Wood is being bought by Kent Wildlife Trust

The wood nestles in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and when it came to market there were fears that if it fell into private hands, it could be mismanaged and even carved up into small plots and sold off, to the detriment of the “connectivity of nature”.

There were concerns that if KWT did not find the funds to buy it, the woods could suffer the same issues as woods in Adisham which have been divided up into smaller plots and are now being investigated for alleged unauthorised uses.

Mr Bateman-Brown explains that over hundreds of years, Covert Wood has become “a sanctuary for generations of wildlife and teems with life”.

But he feared that if the wood became split up in the future, it would be impossible to manage the land best for nature.

He now believes the health of the wood can be enhanced by creating wildlife corridors with nearby Lyminge Forest and even re-introduce species like pine martins and allow grazing cattle.

The pine martin could be re-introduced in Covert Wood
The pine martin could be re-introduced in Covert Wood

But it spells the end of mountain biking on the “unofficial” trails by enthusiasts, many of whom belong to the Covert Wood Riders Collective Facebook Group.

Mr Bateman-Brown says the trust appreciates that a connection with nature improves wellbeing and it will be maintaining and improving the current rights of way through the reserve.

But he added: “We do not condone the use of unofficial cycle routes which have damaged this ancient woodland. It is a unique and precious habitat that covers a mere 2.5% of the UK, and it is vitally important that we restore these areas for wildlife.

“As we review the best way to utilise this woodland for nature, we are considering placing conservation grazing animals on the site as a nature-based solution to traditional woodland management, and it is clear that off-road cyclists may pose a risk to animals, walkers and themselves.”

The purchase of the wood has been welcomed by many conservationists and supporters of the appeal.

Among the donors to the appeal is Christine Lassam who said: “It is so important to secure and protect this valuable site for nature.”

“These woods are local to us, a beautiful area that needs to be protected,” said Jane Graham

“Let's stop our beautiful county becoming a concrete jungle and make it a wonderful place for wildlife,” added another.

Covert Wood will now become one of over 90 nature reserves managed by Kent Wildlife Trust, which was created 65 years ago when 400 people attended a public meeting to support the launch of a conservation organisation in the county – then known as Kent Naturalists Trust.

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