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SUN Campaign History - Oct 1997

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Destruction of woodland at 'Old Man's Corner'

Unfortunately, the spirit of well-being created in our September '97 Liaison Meeting was abruptly shattered when, on October 10th, I visited Studland to get a bit of sunbathing in. Although chilly, it was a gloriously sunny day.

Chainsaws heard in broadleaf woodland

Attracted by the unmistakable sound of a chainsaw, I went to the area of broadleaf woodland towards the Shell Bay end of our area. There I found three workmen engaged in tree felling. They said they were contractors to English Nature and that they were cutting an access path from the deep-water sump on the landward side of the woodland so that hose lines could be brought through in the event of fire on the seaward side, where there is no fresh water source.

A two to three metre dog-legged path had been agreed - a fifty metre wide corridor of destruction was what we got!

As we had discussed this at the meeting on 17th September, when the National Trust had stated unequivocally that such paths - two were planned - would be no wider than two to three metres, and as the contractors also asserted this to be the case (they said the path would be dog-legged through the wood, and showed me markings on the trees which appeared to support this position) I though no more about it, and returned to my sunbathing. You can imagine my horror when I discovered on the following Monday that a huge area, thirty to fifty yards wide and the better part of a hundred yards deep, had been totally denuded of trees, the remains of which were left lying on site. There was even less access to the deep-water sump than there had been before!

I immediately fired off a very strong letter to Celia Mead, accusing the National Trust of a serious breach of faith, which elicited a reply which might be described as apologetic. Ms Mead asserted that the work had been arranged by English Nature prior to our September meeting and that her understanding was that two woodland rides had been created. (By this time, another huge area had been levelled by the second deep-water sump closer to Shell Bay. In fact, if access to this second sump was all that was required, there was no need to cut down any trees, since there was already a path through the wood at that point which required only the clearance of fallen timber and scrub.)

According to my Concise Oxford, a ride, in this context, is "a path (esp. through woods) for riding on". These clearings are wide enough to accommodate a squadron of cavalry in review order, but as they are heavily waterlogged and extensively covered by gnarled and twisted root systems, no self-respecting - or, more to the point, horse-respecting - rider would even consider entering them. What is self-evident is that in these two clearings, the screening effect of the woodland has been largely nullified. How this matches up with the National Trust's promises is difficult to see.

Colin James


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