THE Forestry Commission has been accused of destroying paths through a popular woodland, leading to unsuspecting walkers becoming trapped in thigh-high mud.
Di Owst was walking through Battle Great Wood on March 16 when she heard a woman’s desperate cries for help.
She raced over to find the terrified pensioner and her dog stuck firmly in the mud.
Di said: “I tried to get to the lady but instantly started to sink myself.
“I managed to retrace my steps and made several trips with pieces of branches and deadwood to form a platform for her to lean on.
“I then was also able to get a bit closer to her and slowly release both legs from the sinking mud.
“One leg was extremely painful as she had twisted it trying to get out.
“After digging the mud out around her legs I was able to pull each leg out, one at a time.
“She was dehydrated and exhausted.”
Despite Di’s best efforts, the dog was stuck fast, so she called her husband and son who raced to the scene from the family home in Harold Terrace, Battle.
She said: “They took their shoes and socks off to get to the dog and dug him out, but as he was so exhausted and couldn’t move, they used my husband’s jumper under the tummy to carry him out.
“Thankfully both owner and dog seemed OK, but physically and emotionally exhausted.
“My son and I walked them both home to ensure they were safe.”
The woman, known only as Pat, was stuck for an hour.
The Forestry Commission had recently carried out extensive work in the woods and Di believes the paths had not been properly reinstated.
She said: “This track had been ‘smoothed’ over by machinery after the felling had finished a few weeks ago and therefore looks absolutely fine to walk on.
“These are not minor paths made by the odd walker. These are the main public footpaths.
“They are dangerous and if I hadn’t found the lady, I do not want think what may have been the outcome.”
There were no warning signs in place at the time.
Di added: “I have lived in Battle for 30 years and all my kids have been brought up walking in the woods.
“It’s never been like this.”
Shortly before she got into difficulty, Pat had come to the aid of a 19-year-old girl, who had got stuck in mud up to her thighs near the same site.
Speaking about her ordeal, Pat said: “I saw my dog wasn’t moving. He was stuck in mud up to his belly.
“I went towards him, but to my horror found myself sinking up to my knees.
“I put my hands down for leverage and the mud disappeared over my wrists. I’m in trouble.”
Pat, who called for help for 10 minutes, said: “There was no sight or sound of anyone else around.
“If that lady had not come out of the wood, how long would I have been there?”
She added: “I’m a bit shaken and have an ache here and there. I’m not very young, only in heart.
“I should be very pleased to see the foresters walk on those main paths.”
A Forestry Commission spokesperson said: “We are sorry to hear that some visitors have had difficulty with the muddy conditions in parts of Battle Great Wood.
“It is a working woodland and forestry operations are a normal part of activity here.
“Rides were reinstated following the recent forestry work, but with the unprecedented recent rainfall, the ground has not yet been able to fully dry out and recover.
“Further reinstatement works are planned, but these can only take place once the ground conditions have dried out more.
“The Forestry Commission has put up signs in the area to advise visitors to stay on the main roads and be wary of muddy conditions.”