Brookland Wood 10 Years on

February 25, 2007
Brookland Wood sign

Kenneth Watkins (1909-1996) founded the Woodland Trust in 1972 in Devon where he had built up a successful agricultural machinery business. At the time there was no conservation body to protect small woods, spinneys and copses and he recognised the value of these to people, the environment and wildlife. He could not have dreamed how much the Trust would grow, not only saving endangered woodland but creating new woods also for the benefit of the population.

Brookland Wood field before planting

Brookland Wood field before planting

The Woodland Trust had the ambitious target for the millennium to plant 200 new woods with an average size of 10 acres. Suitable sites for these were not easy to find but the notice for auction of Martyn Robert’s field in Fontmell was spotted. The Trust was alerted and they said that if there proved to be sufficient interest and support from the community of Fontmell Magna, they were prepared to try and buy it. A rapid appeal for pledges followed with a successful outcome in spite of the villagers having just funded the new village hall. Helped by the Lottery Fund, Dorset County Council and other sponsors, the 7.14 acre field was bought for £24,100 in November 1996 at the auction in Marnhull.
Then followed public meetings to choose the name, the planting layout

Brookland Wood sign

Brookland Wood sign

Brookland Wood, treeplanting

Brookland Wood, treeplanting

and a special millennium feature. ‘Brookland’ wood was chosen to reflect the original field name, Brookfurlough Close. The layout of paths was designed to maximise views of the church and Fontmell Down with interesting variations to any walk round the wood.
The main planting event was organised by the Woodland Trust on Sunday 8th February 1997 .The contractors had to rush with the guards and stakes to keep up with the volunteers who planted a large number of mainly oak, ash, willow and mixed shrubs.
Children from the local Beaver group and St Andrew’s School did

Beavers and St Andrew's School children

Beavers and St Andrew's School children

further planting later.

Entrance gate to Brookland Wood

Entrance gate to Brookland Wood

The entrance gate and fencing was donated by Chris Crabbe Fencing and the Dorset Conservation Volunteers have repaired fencing along the stream edge and helped control the pond weed and reed mace. A large block of hazels were planted as thatching and hurdle-making are traditional local crafts.

Wild flowers planted in Brookland Wood

Wild flowers planted in Brookland Wood

Where power lines cross the site trees are not wanted so wild flowers were sown using seed collected from Westgate Wood.
This gave some early

Wild flowers planted in Brookland Wood

Wild flowers planted in Brookland Wood

interest while the trees were establishing but success has been limited as the soil is too rich for many species to compete with the vigorous grasses left from the original meadow. Snowdrops were already growing, smothered in the roadside hedge, so some of these were split and replanted inside the field. These have formed good clumps flowering in January and February. Evidence of the old ridge and furrow system of grassland management is still just discernable in places.

Excavating pond, Brookland Wood

Excavating pond, Brookland Wood

A pond was excavated in 1998 as the millennium feature leaving an island for wildlife retreat at the lower end of the field which soon attracted pond life.

Pond in Brookland Wood

Pond in Brookland Wood

Early visitors included mallard, moorhen and kingfisher.

Pond in Brookland Wood

Pond in Brookland Wood

Contractors cared for the

Grass-cutting Brookland Wood

Grass-cutting Brookland Wood

trees for the first few years but volunteers have done more annual maintenance, removing tree guards and stakes, controlling docks and mowing the paths.

Brookland Wood

Brookland Wood

The trees have grown well with only some species of willow failing due to disease.
The wood is used

Brookland Wood

Brookland Wood

regularly by local walkers and visitors who can see the trees develop, wildlife increase and sit on one of the various benches to rest and enjoy the beauty of Fontmell Magna.

Author: Judy Westgate