THERE is dismay in Winchelsea following the cancellation of the town’s annual bonfire celebrations.
Winchelsea Bonfire Boyes have been working hard all year to raise funds for the big night on Saturday November 3.
But now they have been forced to cancel after use of the field they have held the event on for more than a decade was withdrawn by the farmer.
The traditional bonfire celebrations are one of the best loved events of the year in the historic town and provide a quieter, more family orientated alternative to the larger street events which take place in Battle and Rye.
The bonfire has taken place since 2000 at Rookery Field, which is owned by the National Trust tenanted Wickham Manor Farm, and has been problem free.
Winchelsea councillor and Bonfire Boye Richard Comotto explained: “Winchelsea’s popular annual Bonfire Night has been cancelled following the refusal by the National Trust and its tenant farmer in Winchelsea to allow a bonfire to be held in the field that has been used since 2000.
“Winchelsea Bonfire Boyes were told that the problem originates with Natural England, who supervise the Higher Level Stewardship scheme at Wickham Manor Farm.
“However, Natural England have denied they are responsible for blocking access to the field and point out that they have consented to the bonfire for the last two years. They say they have no problem provided the remains of bonfire are cleared away and that the decision is down to the farmer.”
Farmer Mason Palmer said: “We have no problem with the firework display just the bonfire.
It used to be on the remains of an old tree stump but that has long gone and the grass has grown back and we want to maintain that. We don’t want to see the grass scorched and killed.
“This is a conservation area and the RSPB recently identified 15 species of endangered birds here. “
Richard Comotto said: ““Bonfire Night in Winchelsea is a very popular event, particularly with families, who can find the bigger local events intimidating for children. It’s also the only event in Winchelsea for younger people.
“The Bonfire Boyes have been fund-raising all year and have several thousand pounds of fireworks in store. We have also been investing a lot of money in costumes and props for the parade.
“The bonfire site in Rookery Field is the only site in the town where it is possible to hold a bonfire, as every open space in Winchelsea requires Scheduled Ancient Monument consent.
“We won’t get consent for anywhere else.”