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Wood that inspired Roald Dahl will be destroyed by HS2 this autumn

Woodland Trust

3 min read Partner content

Nearly half of the wood said to have inspired Roald Dahl to write Fantastic Mr Fox will be destroyed for HS2 this autumn.

The author was known to be a regular visitor to Jones Hill Wood, near Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire, where some 0.7 hectares of the 1.8ha site – home to bats, badgers, tawny owls, bluebells, dog’s mercury, dog’s violet, primroses and of course foxes - will be dug up.

Sitting amongst rolling British farmland, Jones’ Hill Wood is dominated by beech trees with an understorey of mostly holly. The dense canopy of beech provides a unique setting which allows for moss and shade tolerant plants to thrive in the open glades between the trees. The carpets of beech nuts on the woodland floor provide a particularly satisfying crunch as you walk through this ancient wood.

It is one of 20 ancient woodlands across Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire totalling 19.45 hectares that HS2 contractors will attempt to translocate from 1st October. Translocation is the moving of woodland soils from one place to another in the hope that the woodland will re-grow but there is very little evidence of its success. Natural England guidance clearly states that an “ancient woodland ecosystem cannot be moved”. It is therefore not an appropriate alternative to conservation in situ.

Luci Ryan, Lead Policy Adviser for Infrastructure at the charity said:

“Just over half a hectare of one wood might not sound much but every inch of soil in an ancient woodland is precious. When you consider ancient woodland is irreplaceable, accounts for just 2.4 per cent of land cover in the UK, and is probably the richest habitat we have, this will be devastating for the myriad of species that rely on it for survival.

“We are in the midst of climate and nature emergency with Government saying it is committed to being the first to leave the environment in a better state than they found it yet HS2’s wilful destruction of these vital ecosystems suggests otherwise.

“On top of that the removal of part of Jones Hill Wood is a literary loss. It’s culturally significant, the stuff of childhood memories. Millions of children and their parents have been captivated by the story of Fantastic Mr Fox and his friends the badgers, moles, rabbits and weasels with whom he shares the wood. The story of course will live on. The wood, however, will not.”

The 20 woods due for translocation and destruction from 1 October are:

  1. Jones Hill Wood, Buckinghamshire (0.7 ha of the 1.8ha site will be lost)
  2.  Decoypond Wood, Buckinghamshire (1.1ha of 8.8ha)
  3. Unnamed wood 1, north of Decoypond Wood, Buckinghamshire (0.49 ha of 0.64ha)
  4. Unnamed wood 2, north of Decoypond Wood, Buckinghamshire (0.08ha of 0.34ha)
  5.  Mossycorner Spinney, Northamptonshire (0.29ha of 0.54ha)
  6.  Halse Copse East, Northamptonshire (0.3ha of 5.99ha)
  7. Glyn Davies Wood, Warwickshire(1.35ha of 3.27ha)
  8. South Cubbington, Warwickshire (2ha of 17ha)
  9. North Wood, Warwickshire (1.8ha of5.43ha)
  10. Unnamed Copse of Drayton Lane, Staffordshire (0.2ha of 0.21ha)
  11. Rookery, Staffordshire (1.4ha of 7.44ha)
  12. Roundhill Wood, Staffordshire (1.3 ha of 4.2ha)
  13. Fulfen Wood, Staffordshire  (0.4ha of 1ha)
  14. Ravenshaw Wood, Staffordshire (1.7ha of 7.88ha)
  15. Big Lyntus. Staffordshire (0.8ha of 6.63ha)
  16. Little Lyntus, Staffordshire (1.4ha of 1.43ha)
  17. John’s Gorse, including an area called Hanch Wood, Staffordshire (2.6ha of 3.42ha)
  18. Vicar’s Coppice, Staffordshire (0.5ha of 7.65ha)
  19. Roughknowles Wood, Warwickshire  (0.4ha of 1ha)
  20. Broadwells Wood, Warwickshire (0.64ha  – a further 2.56ha of the 15.7ha site was previously translocated in Spring 2020.  See drone footage)