There’s been a lot of coverage in the last day or so about Hopwas Wood near Tamworth, which Lafarge Tarmac is planning to take a chunk off and turn into a sand and gravel quarry. Lafarge promise to reinstate this piece of Ancient Woodland after they’re finished in about 2030, but the problem is they can’t. English Ancient Woodland is defined as land that has been wooded continuously since 1600 and is almost certain to have been woodland since the return of the trees after the last ice age. It’s not possible to recreate that ecosystem by planting from scratch, any more than it’s possible to build a copy of a historic city and expect the cultural life of the place to be just the same.
Lafarge claim the area they want to strip of trees was damaged by fire in the 1970s and so isn’t ancient. But that misses the point that the seed bank in the soil and the fungi that co-operate with the roots to fix nitrogen have built up over millenia. It’s not the individual trees that matter: it’s the ongoing continuity of the processes by which an ancient ecosystem renews itself. I can see there are some situations when there just isn’t a way to build essential transport links or new towns without harming some pieces of Ancient Woodland, but another sand and gravel quarry isn’t something like that.
The Woodland Trust seem have to been in the forefront of making the media aware. The Twitter hash tag is #savehopwaswoods . There are Save Hopwas Woods campaign profiles on Twitter and on Facebook.