The majority of the trees currently being felled in Battle Great Wood were planted by the Forestry Commission in the 1960’s and 1970’s with the intention of supplying the commercial timber markets in the UK.
At this time there were 2 or 3 entrances into the forest used by workers and the occasional dog walker. I first worked in this forest in 1984 and the site of a dog walker then was quite rare.
In the relatively recent past the Forestry Commission established a car park at the main entrance on Marley Lane for the use of all, there is no charge for this facility and it is extensively used from before light until after dark even at this time of year, I know because I have spent more hours than anyone working in this forest over the past few weeks using the access point through the car park.
Traditionally the Forestry Commission Managed the state’s forests for timber production but in my 30 years in the industry the emphasis has very much changed and they now take very seriously their responsibilities with respect to recreation and conservation, but the trees that were planted as a crop, just like the farmer plants his crops on an annual basis, still need to be harvested.
Unfortunately some work has to be done somewhere, when weather and ground conditions are less than ideal for this type of work, I am afraid that this time it is the turn of Battle Great Wood. We have to earn a living for 52 weeks of the year, believe me if we could afford to just work in the dry summer months when the daylight hours are long and the sun is shining we would!
Reinstatement of the paths and tracks will take place as soon as ground conditions allow and the areas of trees that have been clearfelled will have all the lop and top raked into rows prior to re planting with native broadleaves (much better than those horrible conifers apparently, but don’t expect to still buy your garden fence panels, your garden sheds or your horse bedding shavings, made from UK grown timber in 40 years time!)
We are required for health & safety reasons to restrict access to certain areas of the forest whilst operations are taking place for the safety of the general public. We try to be reasonable with regard to closing off areas but when warning signs, red and white barrier tape and felled trees fail to stop people from “walking where I have always walked” it can become frustrating.
Bear in mind that a falling tree 70’or 80’ tall and weighing over a tonne is potentially very dangerous to any person or dog that strays into the work site unnoticed by the men carrying out the felling. If we were forced to work to the same constraints that are placed on the equally dangerous construction industry, the whole forest would be a total no go area to all but workers for the duration of the contract so think your selves lucky that you are still able to walk your dogs and ride your horses whilst the work is taking place at all.
There have been notices posted by the Forestry Commission at the entrances explaining the reasons for the tree felling and thinning to enable replanting and the development of the remaining trees. The vast majority of people that I have spoken to are quite reasonable and understanding with regard to the work we are doing in spite of the mess being made in places fully understanding that nature will take it’s course and in a year’s time the forest will have settled back to the “haven for children, dogs, horses and walkers” so missed at the moment by Pat from Battle.
In the meantime please take notice of the signs that are erected to inform the public of the dangers of entering certain areas, especially when you can hear machinery or chainsaws operating and allow us to complete the work safely. You can have your woods back soon.
Richard Smith. Hurst Green