The South East of England is a particularly well-wooded part of the UK. The High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty around Flimwell has some of the highest coverage of trees in the UK.
The 20 hectares (46 acres) of woodland at Flimwell Park once formed part of Seacox Heath - a partially wooded heathland used for animal grazing and coppice until this fell out of use following the Second World War.
The south-sloping, water abundant site was converted into the Flimwell Bird Park in the 1980's when ponds were dug, paths created, and some areas opened-up for visitors.
Since Flimwell Bird Park closed, scrub woodland and rhododendron have re-colonised, swamping much of the interesting vegetation such as the nationally-rare Heath lobelia (Lobelia urens). The distribution of this plant on the site is being mapped and the habitat improved by cutting with advice from Natural England and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
This now largely wooded site is home to several species of deer but is otherwise suffering from low biodiversity due to a lack of woodland management over the past two decades. A woodland management plan is being developed to put the land to a variety of new and innovative uses intended to increase biodiversity and productivity in a changing climate. We are beginning to map and zone the site with the aim of restoring habitats for mammals, birds, insects and wildflowers - hopefully even reptiles and fish. A crucial part of the project is to identify areas for visitors, timber production, grazing, and growing.
We will be exploring many ideas about how the woodland might be used with an emphasis on opportunities for woodland farming, recreation, diverse woodland studies, design, arts and making with some building activity for education and training. It will take many years to achieve this, but we are confident that, in time, the Flimwell Park will be an inspiringly beautiful, busy, and creative place producing food, fuel, materials, and a wide range of goods and services.
We intend for the woodland to be as inviting and as public as possible with the hope that people will come away with new ideas about how High Weald woodland can exist as a rich, fruitful, and sustainable landscape in the 21st century and beyond.