Becky Addy Wood will be protected as a nature reserve

BECKY Addy Wood near Bradford on Avon has been sold for £45,000 to locals determined to see it used as a nature reserve to enhance the community, just before it was due to be auctioned with a guide price of £40-£50,000.

The 10.6 acres of woodland, which runs along the side of the Avon valley on the Westwood bank, above the river and canal before Avoncliff, was due to be sold on Thursday April 23 by Frome auctioneers Cooper & Tanner in an online sale.

Bradford Town Council has contributed £3,000 to the purchase and is acting as a “lead agency” for a community purchase by a group called the Friends of Becky Addy Wood, or FROBAW, even though the woodland is outside the town boundary.

Cllr Alex Kay, chairman of the council’s environmental and planning committee, said: “It is consistent with our Climate Emergency statement to improve green space and preserve wildlife habitats and woodland.”

It is understood the council is acting as financial guarantor to support the community-led bid to purchase the wood from its owner, Stuart Kenneth Brown, of Hagg Hill Farm at Semington.

FROBAW is believed to include more than 100 people who want to ensure the wood is protected and managed as a nature reserve.

Lou Barry, of FROBAW, said: “We are so pleased that Becky Addy Wood is going to be protected. “It’s a magical ancient woodland where history is recorded in the wonderful flora and its importance to wildlife – knowing that it will now be a nature reserve is such a relief to all the local people who find peace and tranquillity walking through the wood. FROBAW are so grateful for the huge support, which has exceeded all expectations.”

In April, FROBAW began fundraising and managed to raise £30,000 of the purchase costs privately from more than 100 residents across the area alongside a £3,000 donation from the Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust.

The purchase, which is now undergoing due diligence, will see the council provide permanent protection for the wood, in partnership with FROBAW. Grants will be sought to protect and promote specific projects, while final management arrangements for the long-term future of the wood are established.

Cllr Kay added: “I am very proud and inspired to have worked with the community to acquire Becky Addy Wood.”

“People from across the area, including Westwood, Turleigh, Avoncliff and Bradford on Avon, have united with one aim: to protect the wood in perpetuity.

“This fits in with efforts to tackle the Climate Emergency and developing our Green Space Management Strategy which has maximising biodiversity at its very heart.

“Becky Addy Wood is a beautiful stretch of woodland, full of wildflowers and birdsong. Along with all of our green spaces, it provides a place for those seeking solace and renewal, not just in the current circumstances, but long into the future.”

Council leader, Cllr Dom Newton, said: “The Town Council has acted swiftly to support a largely community effort to assemble the majority of the funds needed to acquire and safeguard the future of Becky Addy Wood.

“The decision recognises that, while our town boundary may end on a line on a map, our responsibility as custodians of green spaces that our residents use, in and around the town, does not.

“We look forward to working with Friends of Becky Addy Wood and others to establish a management plan, to protect and nurture them for the future.”Councillors voted 9-2 in favour of supporting the purchase in private session after discussions at a full council meeting held online on April 21. The wood was withdrawn from the auction the following day.

Not all members were happy about the decision. Cllr Laurie Brown said: “I have every sympathy with those who wish to see this ancient wood preserved.

“As a council we should not be buying pieces of land outside the town boundary.” just because some people use it every now and again.”

Cllr John Bishop, chairman of Westwood Parish Council, in whose parish the wood lies, said they had been involved in discussions but could not afford to contribute to the purchase because of previous commitments.

The move follows a successful campaign last October by the Friends of Becky Addy Wood to stop the West Wilts Motorcycle Club from staging a trials event in the wood.

Frank Sweeting, chairman of the WWMC, which has staged trials bike events in the wood since 1954, said: “We had no interest in the slightest, given that for the past couple of years a group of local people have pressed us to stop running the motorcycle trials event.”

Becky Addy Wood is designated as an ancient semi-natural woodland and the entire wood is covered by a Tree Preservation Order.

It comprises mainly mature broadleaf trees with a variety of ground-covering species and there is hard core track that runs the length of the woods which is a public footpath.

Wiltshire Wildlife Trust carried out a survey of the wood in April 2010 and at the time it was noted that there were song thrush and Spiked Star-Of-Bethlehem present.

In addition, there were species present that indicated a high-quality ancient woodland, including Wood Anemone, Bluebells and Early Dog-Violet.

Access to the wood is off the steep road between Avoncliff and Upper Westwood.

This is Wiltshire

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