It is late November, and Worth Forest is suspended in a liminal second between autumn and winter. Balding oaks, birches and beech timber huddle like grandfathers, honeycomb leaves crunch underfoot and a hare scurries throughout my path. Out of sight, hedgehogs and dormice assemble their properties for the winter. It would possibly sound just like the setting for a storybook, however it’s something however. Worth Forest is a war-zone.
Center Parcs is planning to construct a £350 million vacation resort within the West Sussex website, a venture which conservationists say will “tear the heart” out of the ancient woodland.
The vacation firm, which already has 5 family-friendly parks throughout the UK, hopes to construct as much as 900 lodges, erect a “subtropical swimming paradise”, and construct roads and automotive parks at Oldhouse Warren in Worth Forest, not removed from Crawley. Gatwick Airport is a 10-minute drive away, and the M23 roars simply a few hundred metres away, however within the depths of the forest you wouldn’t comprehend it.
“The forest creates a natural sound buffer from the motorway,” says Michael Brown, member of the Sussex department of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), as we take a stroll alongside a public proper of approach.
The path is marshy on this brisk November morning, and as we hopscotch over puddles we don’t encounter one other soul. We should not capable of enter Oldhouse Warren itself, which is privately owned by the Cowdray Estate and fenced off, however inside it lies an ecosystem that has existed right here for centuries.
And because of this the Woodland Trust, together with the Sussex Wildlife Trust, CPRE Sussex, the RSPB and Sussex Ornithological Society, is protesting so vehemently in opposition to the proposal. Though some of the native deciduous timber within the forest have been felled for youthful, fast-growing conifers, that is nonetheless a tract of ancient woodland, that means it has had timber rising on it for a minimum of 400 years (presumably a lot longer), the size of time it takes for the total ecology of a woodland to develop.