Dartmoor's endearingly named Fingle Woods have been extensively re-opened to walkers, after 45km (28 miles) of footpaths were reinstated on the 825 acre site as part of a major woodland restoration project. It is the first time these routes have been open in 10 years.
Charities the Woodland Trust and National Trust joined forces in August 2013 to purchase and restore the woods which straddle the River Teign, with a promise that visitors would be able to discover previously inaccessible areas of the site. So far £3m has been donated to a fundraising appeal set up by the Woodland Trust, but another £2m is desperately needed to fund the long-term restoration of the woods, they say.
From this month people will be able to follow new trails throughout the woods, which take in sites including an Iron Age hill fort at Wooston Castle and the Hidden Valley at Halls Cleave. There's great nature watching here, from huge wood ant nests to kingfishers, otters and birds of prey.
David Rickwood, Woodland Trust Site Manager for Devon, said:
'We are over half way to our £5 million fundraising target which is fantastic after just eight months. This money will enable not only the purchase of the site but will also fund the long-term restoration of the areas of damaged ancient woodland on site.'
'We will only be able to secure the long-term restoration of the woods if we reach our £5m fundraising target so every pound donated will make a real difference.'
What is the money going towards? Around two-thirds of Fingle Woods is covered in damaged ancient woodland, planted with conifers, which the charities aim to restore by gradually thinning the conifers over many decades, allowing native woodland to regenerate. This will expand the habitat for species such as pied flycatcher, redstart, wood warbler and fritillary butterflies. Damaged ancient woodland makes up nearly half of the existing ancient woodland left in the UK, which is irreplaceable and covers just 2% of the landscape. Restoration is the only way to protect its long-term future, say the Woodland Trust.
Adrian Colston, General Manager at the National Trust on Dartmoor, added:
'We’re excited that visitors exploring the new pathways will be able to experience new sights, sounds and landscapes at Fingle Woods.'
'Our plans for 2014 are in an advanced state and we have been very lucky and survived the recent storms better than many, so there are plenty of trees and vistas for visitors to enjoy.'
For more info or to make a donation visit woodlandtrust.org.uk/fingle-woods