Friends Of Park Wood Hellingly

News 2019

December 2019 update

Our Annual General Meeting and the World War Two talk on 21st November 2019 at the King’s Head, was a great success, with an attendance of over fifty people on a wet winter evening.

We sold most of our Park Wood merchandise, but we do have a few calendars left and some polo shirts, if anybody is still looking for something a little different to give as a gift.

Stewart and Peter gave us a fascinating insight into the way Park Wood was used in World War Two by the Canadian military and also by the brave local men, who secretly trained there as saboteurs, to be used in the invent of a German invasion.

Update on progress to date
Following the AGM. I was able to give an update on our progress towards our goal of gaining control of the wood. I had to report that we are currently struggling to make any headway with the Environment Agency and that if we are to succeed we need to considerably raise our profile as a group. To this end we need to increase our membership. If we all tried to recruit just one more member each, this would be a huge boost, but we also need greater media coverage, national rather than just local and if possible, to recruit a local celebrity, with “green” credentials. This may all seem a tall order, but we are in grave danger of losing the battle for the wood, not only to the detriment of the wood itself but also to the detriment of the community.

Any ideas from you, the members, would be most welcome, I know there has to be a lot of hidden talent out there among you. Meanwhile we, your committee, are doing our utmost to bring things to a successful conclusion in 2020.

Finally, as I wish you all the best for Christmas and the New Year, from myself and the committee, may I ask that you renew your membership, if you have not already done so and please try to recruit new members to swell our numbers.

Paul Rees. Chairman

Flooding in Park Wood.
Carrie, one of our committee members has been working tirelessly to trace the body responsible for clearing the blockage causing the flood. This has turned out to be a master class in “buck passing”, but it would seem that finally she has had some success and we will let you know as soon as the footpath is passable again.

 November 2019 Chairman’s report

Just a short report this month, as I will be giving an update on the year so far at the AGM. on the 21st. and also on our future strategy. The biggest problem at the moment is the effect on the wood of the unprecedented volume of rain in recent weeks. I have advised people via Facebook, of the potential dangers, with the car park once again in a dangerous state and the path past the pond being flooded to a depth of over a foot.   If you choose to enter the wood from this direction please exercise extreme caution.I have been in contact with the Environment Agency, who, as you can imagine, are extremely busy at the moment and they have informed me that Park Wood is a low priority, as there is no necessity for people to use the wood. What a pity the “Friends” are not allowed to carry out any work in the wood, as it would most certainly be a priority for us to repair the car park and investigate the cause of the flooding by the pond, which was a problem before the recent rains. I have taken to entering the wood from the Roebuck Park Estate, adjacent to the NHS. building and am still able to enjoy my daily walks, but I look forward to being able to use my normal route before too long. Please, if you can, come along to the King’s Head at Horsebridge, on the 21st. November, for the illustrated talk on Park Wood in WW2 and for our AGM. and update. There will be some Park Wood Christmas merchandise for sale and it is also an opportunity to meet your committee members and catch up with old friends. The meeting starts at 7.30 pm. doors open from 7.00 pm. Paul Rees. Chairman FoPWH

THURSDAY 21st. NOVEMBER 2019 7.30 pm @ THE KING’S HEAD                                                                  HORSEBRIDGE
                                   Friends of Park Wood –Hellingly AGM
Followed by an Illustrated Talk On The Role Of Park Wood During                                                  the Second World War.
Park Wood played a significant role in the Second World War, both as a training ground for Canadian troops, which some of our members can recall, and it housed a secret underground base to conceal local men and their equipment ready to counter a German invasion using guerrilla warfare.
Stewart Angell & Peter Hibbs, founders of Sussex Military Research, will present their findings in relation to this activity in Park Wood and its vicinity.

All are welcome; entry is free to members, £5.00 to non members, or join on the night. Please make a note on the calendar for an evening not to be missed.

The AGM. Is not expected to take up much time, but in the interests of democracy, is a necessity.

I will list below all the committee posts and I am able to tell you that all current committee members are willing to continue in their posts. This does not preclude any member from standing against an incumbent, but it requires that you are a member and must have a proposer and be seconded, by people, both of whom must also be members.

Any nominations must be sent to the membership secretary by 7th November to be included in elections on the 21st November.

The committee consists of; Chair, Deputy Chair, Secretary, Membership Secretary, Treasurer, Planning and Strategy, Public Relations and Communications., and Legal advisor

October 2019

Chairman’s Report This month’s report shows very little progress from last month’s but I am assured by the Environment Agency that things are happening behind the scenes at their end. However, being mindful of last year’s debacle with them and following a FoPWH committee meeting last Friday, I emailed them at the beginning of this week and requested, as a matter of urgency, a meeting with our negotiating committee. To date I have not received a reply and can only hope that the reason for this is that they are working on suitable dates, when they can get their team together at the same time. We will not allow the situation to drag on as it did last year and as I think I have mentioned before, all emails between us and the EA. are copied to our MP. Nus Ghani, who is taking a keen interest in our campaign and is very sympathetic to our cause. If there is any significant progress with the EA. before next month’s report is due, I will update the membership at the earliest opportunity

Paul Rees,

Chairman FoPWH

Chairman’s Report – September 2019

Save the date – Thursday 21st November 2019 AGM, followed by a talk.  Full details to follow shortly but please get the date in your diaries.  

Once again I have to apologise for the lateness of this month’s report, I really must try harder to get it out nearer the beginning of the month.
Our negotiations with the Environment Agency are progressing, albeit, very slowly. I have had a fairly lengthy and very positive telephone conversation with the person from the EA. who will be setting up the talks with us. Although he is based in Lancashire, he is familiar with Park Wood and is very keen to work with us on its preservation and long term future. It would seem that the EA. are unlikely to have sufficient funding for anything more than basic maintenance in the wood and therefore some kind of partnership with the “Friends” will be the best solution. This is likely to involve us in fundraising and seeking grants, to carry out works that are beyond the scope of EA. funding and for this to be successful we will need to maintain and hopefully, increase our membership.I am often asked about the possibility of setting up working parties to carry out basic tasks in the wood and I hope to have some positive news on this once we have had a meeting with the EA. and have sorted out the necessary insurance details.

We have forwarded details of our ecological survey and our management/sustainability plans to the EA. in order for them to study these prior to our first meeting with them, in the hope that this may enable them to offer us a meeting in the near future. Now that the holiday season is over we are expecting things to move forward within the next few weeks.

Thank you for your patience and support during this long, drawn out process, which began with our first public meeting in August 2017. You have helped to save the wood from falling into private hands, which, without the formation of the “Friends” and the ACV., it definitely would have done, probably to be broken up into smaller plots, with multiple owners. Community groups such as ours, are now being respected and taken seriously by government and I am very optimistic that our negotiations will reach a satisfactory outcome during 2020.

Paul Rees. Chairman.
If you go to Park Wood today …

… you may well make the large Beech tree, standing close to the northern edge of the Wood, your destination. 

It has by far the largest girth of all the trees, measuring some 4.57 metres (some 14.7 feet), and almost certainly the oldest.

So how old is it? This is difficult to estimate, but using the Forestry Commission’s guide ‘Estimating the age of large and veteran trees in Britain’ and treating it as being on a woodland edge location, suggests that it could be about 275 years old (I.e. started life in the mid1700s!). This is quite a bit older than the estimate in an earlier document about the Wood of about 200 years. In either case, it is a Veteran Tree, to be enjoyed and tended as a landmark asset within Park Wood.

Beech bark is extremely thin, scars easily and is unable to heal itself. In fact, Beech wood tablets were a common writing material in Germanic societies before the development of paper. The German, Dutch and Swedish words for “book” derive from and are the same spelling as (or virtually so) as “beech tree”. 

If you go down to Park Wood today …

… you’ll be able to identify Hornbeam trees from the carpet of fallen three-lobed bracts (leaf casings of seeds) underneath them. On the tree, these hang in tiered clusters, rather like Chinese lanterns, and contain a small nut.

Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) is found across the Wood, as both a coppiced tree and a standard. It looks very similar to the more common Beech, but its leaves are more veined and serrated, and a little darker, than those of Beech, whose leaves have a smoother edge.

Hornbeam timber is very strong, the name deriving from ‘horn’ meaning ‘hard’ and ‘beam’ being the name for a tree in old English. It was used for furniture and flooring, for ox-yokes and cogs for windmills and water mills, as well as coppiced for poles and firewood.

Would you like one of our super fashionable polo shirts. 

 They will be in all high end fashion stores shortly.  (Well they won’t really.)  A bargain at £15.30 each.  Payment to be made upon ordering, either by transfer to the normal bank account, sort code 309897, account number 52219268, with your name as the reference.  Please pop me an email confirming the numbers of the shirts that you would like and the sizes.  Alternatively by cheque to me.  Jill Watson 35 Solent Crescent, Hailsham, East Sussex.  BN27 3FW, again with a note of the numbers of shirts that you would like and the sizes.  We have found that the shirts are quite small, so be generous in your measurement.  

Ladies who are normally a 10 will need a medium, 12 a large and 14 an extra large.  Normal gentlemens sizes apply but as mentioned previously go up not down.  Here we have three committee members including our Chairman Paul, modeling the shirts.  Any queries or questions back to me.  

Chairman’s Report August 2019

At last, some positive news regarding the future of the wood.

As I am sure most of you will recall, our meeting with the Environment Agency in January ended a year of negotiation on the future of the wood, with us finishing back where we had started, with the threat of the wood being put back on the market.

Since then we have had various meetings with local bodies and as reported last month, our local MP. This has resulted in an about turn by the EA., who have had a change of heart regarding the wood and are now prepared to look again at some form of working arrangement with us. To this end we are expecting to have a series of meetings with the EA. in order to try to set up a formal agreement between us. As you can imagine, this will be quite a slow and complicated business and I would ask for your patience and continued support, while we work through this process, during which, I will issue progress reports following our meetings. I would add, that these meetings will be with those in a position to make the necessary decisions and not at a local level, as before.

We are cautiously optimistic concerning this latest move, particularly since government has now recognised the importance of community groups, such as ours and the importance of woodland, to the environment and to the public.

Because we have a strong membership and your committee has shown a grasp of all the factors involved in the complicated process of, understanding and managing a large area of ancient woodland, we can negotiate from a position of strength and are sure to get a fair hearing. This is of course, no guarantee of success, but it will surely stand us in good stead.

Many thanks for your continued support and a warm welcome to the new members who have recently joined us, following the placing of a notice board and leaflet holder, in the car park. Pass on the message to any potential members, we can never have too many.

Paul Rees.

July Update 2019

I had an email from a concerned lady member passed to me by Jill, our Membership Secretary during last month.   She was anxious to know what was happening and what our future plans were, towards acquisition of the wood.   We exchanged a couple of friendly and constructive emails and I assured her that I would be more forthcoming with information about our progress in my future reports.   As luck would have it, there has been a considerable amount of progress to report on, in the last month.

On Friday 21st June, together with Jill, our Treasurer and Membership Secretary, I went to one of Nus Ghani’s, our Local Member of Parliament, surgeries, at the Wealden District Council offices in Hailsham.   It is quite some time since we were last in contact with Nus and she was very surprised that this whole business was still not resolved.   She is very sympathetic to our cause and is now a member of FoPWH.   She requested details of all our dealings with the Environment Agency locally, which I forwarded to her last week.   I received an email from her office today, stating that she had already been in contact with the Environment Agency, regarding the wood.   The likely outcome is that our negotiating committee will have a high level meeting with the Environment Agency, sometime in August, with the aim of finding a resolution for the future of the wood.

One less than positive outcome from our meeting with Nus, was that there was no prospect of the wood being “gifted” to the community but that, once valued, we may be able to acquire it at a below market valuation.   I see this as a travesty, since the long term neglect of the wood, by the Environment Agency, means that the new owners will need to spend a considerable amount of money, as soon as they take on ownership, repairing the car park, improving the access paths, pond drainage, replacing missing bridges and a host of other necessary works.

Those of you that know me, or have been to any of our meetings, will know that I can be relied on to put our case to the Environment Agency in the strongest possible terms and will, with the help of my colleagues, do everything we can to obtain the very best outcome.   One thing I will not compromise on is, as our mission statement says, the safeguarding of the wood for future generations in perpetuity, This means no short term compromises will be acceptable.

Whatever happens, it seems certain that we are going to need to raise a large sum of money, probably involving a professional fundraiser and I will doubtless cover this in more detail in a later report.   Anyone with fundraising or marketing skills or experience, please step forward.

With regard to the wood, I was pleased that somebody had been concerned and thoughtful enough to mark out and put up notices, warning of a wasp nest adjacent to one of the paths.   Thank you, whoever you are, this is just how community woodland should function.   I am also pleased to note that our notice board/ leaflet dispenser, is being used by people new to the woods, hopefully this will help to increase our membership.

Finally, on a sad note, I have noticed recently, at several locations on the west side of the wood, dead pigmy shrews.   These have not been mutilated and therefore must either have died of disease or starvation, either way, very sad and worrying that we are losing these tiny creatures, perhaps some knowledgeable member can throw some light on this?

Until next month.   Paul Rees, FoPWH, Chairman If you go Park Wood today, you can see ….

A good clump of Foxgloves  While Foxgloves can be seen in clearings and on the edges of Park Wood, to see a good clump, walk just left of the missing main bridge ( approaching from the car park) . The pink-purple, occasionally white, flowers of the Foxglove are carried along the tall spikes. Their shape is particularly suited to pollination by bees. Its Latin name is Digitalis purpurea, Digitalis, means ‘finger-like’ and refers to the tubular-shaped flowers of the Foxglove, which resemble glove fingers. The ‘fox’ part of the name is not related to foxes, but derives from ‘folksglove’, which apparently was a reference to fairies, because the plants grow in woodland.   Chairman’s June report My apologies for the lateness of this month’s report, everyday life sometimes gets in the way, as I am sure you will understand. The wood is looking absolutely stunning, with almost a full canopy now. I was going to express my concern at the lack of rain in the last month, but nature seems to have addressed that problem in the last few days and is set to continue in the same vein for the rest of the week, if the forecasters are to be believed. None of the anticipated meetings I alluded to last month have yet taken place, but we are keeping the pressure on to bring these about and further measures to strengthen our case were discussed at a recent committee meeting. We will also be addressing Hellingly Parish Council this Wednesday, 12th May to bring them up to date with our progress and to ensure their continued support. There is still a very real danger that the wood could be put up for sale with very little warning and there is every reason not to be complacent, as the Environment Agency are committed to disposing of it and I think it is only the current political situation that is delaying this happening. I have noticed of late, that there are a lot of new faces in the wood, good to see more people enjoying this beautiful space and hopefully joining the ranks of FoPWH. On another note, if you have not already done so, do have a look at David’s excellent and informative pieces on the flora and fauna of the wood, they are definitely not to be missed. I hope to be able to report with some real progress next month, and if not, I can assure you, it won’t be for want of trying. Regards to all, Paul Rees.

If you go down  to Park Wood today…….you will see many Sweet Chestnut trees.

They are usually multi-stemmed, growing from an old stump, or “stool”, and generally found in fairly large groups of trees of similar size.

This is a legacy of the fact that they were effectively planted as a crop and their stems cut on regular basis. This process is known as “coppicing”, which maintains the trees in a juvenile state; hence, the continual regrow.

Coppicing would usually take place every 15 years. Different areas would be cut at different times, maintaining a continuity of supply. The main uses of the cut stems were as poles for making hurdles, fencing, stakes, trugs, charcoal and for firewood.

The stools of the Sweet Chestnut trees are believed to be about 200 years old, with some possibly older. However, as coppicing declined (being overtaken by the use of other materials in construction, coal for heating and imported timber), neglect set in, resulting in the many large Sweet Chestnut trees seen today. The resulting much denser tree canopy, with no periodic opening up, is not good for biodiversity, but does mean that there are many chestnuts to collect in October – if the squirrels leave any.

A message from our Chairman – May 19

Another month has flown by and the wood is looking more beautiful by the day. A fabulous display of bluebells this year and didn’t they look great during the transition period between the fading of the anemones and the rising of the bluebells? I also love the pale green of the fresh leaves, before they reach maturity and change to a darker green and I have noticed more and more birdsong as the weather warms up. No wonder we are so passionate about wanting to preserve Park Wood for future generations to enjoy, not forgetting the benefits it will also bring to the wildlife.
We have several important meetings scheduled during this month and hope to have something positive to report in next month’s missive, so watch this space. It also looks as if there is likely to be a quiet period politically, between the Euro elections and the end of October, which may be helpful to us.
I am sending this month’s report from my motorhome, whilst taking a break in North Wales, so my apologies for it being rather brief this time.
Enjoy the wood and keep sending us your photos, some of them are absolutely stunning and may be used in the calendar we are planning to produce this year.
Paul Rees.

April 19 Chairman’s Report.

The wood is really coming to life now, with the Wood Anemones at their best and the Bluebells beginning to put in an appearance amongst them. The first of the Orchids are out and there is the best display of violets I have ever seen in Park Wood.  Did you know that the Wood Anemones do have a scent? It is very subtle and only noticeable where there are large numbers of them, nothing like the heady smell of the Bluebells, yet to come, but no less enjoyable.

The footpaths have dried out nicely and there could not be a better time to take the children, or grandchildren for a walk in the wood, to help them appreciate the beauty of this wonderful place.

I have to return to a plea for people who have yet to renew their membership.  Please can you pay your ten pounds and remain a member. When the Brexit mess is sorted we will be back to negotiations to secure the long term future of the wood and as I have said many times, our strength is in our numbers. You don’t have to do anything other than be a member to help our cause and the ten pounds you pay will only be used for matters directly connected to Park Wood. I know that many of our expenses to date have been paid for by committee members themselves, however there will undoubtedly be larger expenses, such as legal and survey fees to cover in the future, which will have to come out of the FoPWH bank account.

The committee are totally focused on securing the long term future of the wood, but cannot do this without a healthy membership to support our efforts, so please help to swell our numbers.

Paul Rees (Chairman)

I should have thanked Ian and Linda Baker, of Westways Vending, in last month’s report, for donating the tea and coffee  etc., enabling us to offer free refreshments at the public meeting. My apologies for the omission, please accept our grateful thanks.

If you aren’t sure if you have rejoined, pop a quick email to Jill, our membership secretary at and she can check for you.  Please send your subscription to sort code 309897 52219268, just popping an email to Jill so that she knows to look out for your cash.  Alternatively a good old fashioned cheque, made payable to the Friends Of Park Wood – Hellingly and sent to 35 Solent Crescent, Hailsham, East Sussex.  BN27 3FW is extremely acceptable. 

A huge thank you to those that have already rejoined.  XXX

Chairman’s Report – March 2019

This is the first of my monthly reports, as promised at the public meeting last Wednesday, the idea being to keep members in touch with any progress or events that may be happening.  These reports will always be circulated to members before being made available on the website or Facebook.

Firstly I must thank all those that managed to attend the public meeting and AGM on the 27th. (a hundred or so).  Thank you also to our guests on the panel, from the Woodland Trust and the Environment Agency, also to Parish/District Councillor White, Parish Councillor Blake and two directors from the Geers Wood group in Heathfield.

The meeting started shortly after 7.00 pm., opened by myself, with an outline of the history and progress to date of our group.  This was followed by a short talk by Jim Smith-Wright, of the Woodland Trust, on the very detailed ecological study of the wood, carried out by him, on our behalf, in October last year.  Jim was able to highlight the ecological importance of the wood and the adverse effects on the flora and fauna, caused by the long time neglect and miss-management of the wood.  Following on from this I was able to stress the importance of the wood to the local community and put forward, what I think is a very strong case, for the wood to be in the care of the Friends of Park Wood group.

Paul Levitt, from the Environment Agency, I think very bravely came along, in view of their record with the wood, to explain their reasons for wishing to dispose of it. Basically, it is because modern methods of flood defence no longer require the timber which they used to extract from Park Wood. However, in my opinion, this does not excuse the long term neglect of the wood and can only strengthen our case for ownership.

Several questions were taken from members of the public, which clearly demonstrated their interest and understanding of the situation with the wood and hopefully these were satisfactorily dealt with.

We are simultaneously pursuing several options to secure the long term future of the wood, including:-

  • Ownership held between FoPWH in partnership with the Woodland Trust.
  • Ownership solely held by the FoPWH.
  • Ownership solely held by the Woodland Trust.
  • A possible partnership with the Drainage Board, another Government department.

All these options are in the early stages of negotiation, as we were only informed on the 11th January 2019, that the EA. had decided not to enter into a joint venture with us.

I will keep you up to date with all developments on these negotiations.  I am sure you will appreciate that they are likely to be lengthy and complex, with no quick answers. In the meantime we will do all we can publicise our cause.

The AGM followed on from the public meeting, with all the committee members being re-elected and Mark Worsfold joining the committee to handle Facebook, Twitter and other such media sites.

I would like to finish with a plea for members who have not yet done so, to renew their membership as soon as possible and also to consider setting up a standing order to take care of membership renewals in future, so easing the workload of our energetic and hard working treasurer/membership secretary.

Sincere thanks from myself and the committee for your continued support and don’t forget to spread the word, our strength is in the number of members we have, so never underestimate the importance of your contribution, simply by being a member.

Paul Rees. (Chairman)

An excellent turn out, thanks to everyone who attended.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and crowd

A packed meeting room tonight in support of Park Wood in Hellingly. The Environment Agency and Woodland Trust supports the plans to save the wood for future generations. Full report coming soon.

Residents urged to support campaign to save Park Wood

21st February 2019  

The fate of a wood in Hellingly is being discussed at a public meeting next week (27th February) with the aim of securing it for future generations.

The Friends of Park Wood, a campaign group trying to secure the wood from its current owners, the Environment Agency, says the community needs to pull together to make sure the sale of the woodland benefits the area.

The Environment Agency has owned the wood since just after the Second World War, but is now selling it off as it is regarded as an ‘asset’ that it cannot warrant owning. Park Wood is a protected area of Ancient Woodland, so any sale will still mean it has to be open to the public and wildlife protected.

Paul Rees from the Friends of Park Wood told Hailsham FM this week; “Our aim is for the 152 acre wood to be protected for future generations, our Mission Statement is we want to preserve this wood which has been neglected for twenty years. There are a number of options on the table which will be discussed at the meeting which needs support from the local community.”

An Environment Agency spokesman told Hailsham News; “Park Wood will remain open to the public by law, whether or not owned by the Environment Agency. Similarly, wildlife and plants in the woodland will continue to be protected.

“We’re working with the Friends of Park Wood and others to reach a satisfactory outcome to all. The Environment Agency has a responsibility to the taxpayer to use public money wisely. We no longer obtain materials for coastal repairs from Park Wood, meaning it is no longer feasible for the agency to manage it.”

The meeting will take place on Wednesday 27th February from 18:15pm at the Charles Hunt Centre in Vicarage Field. The Environment Agency will be attending to answer questions as well as a representative from The Woodland Trust.

 Public Notice/Meeting
To include our first AGM.
Open to members and non-members.
@ The Charles Hunt Centre, Hailsham
On Wednesday 27th February 2019
7.00pm – 9.30pm
Doors open 6.15 free tea and coffee available.
The Environment Agency have decided, after 12 months of negotiation, not to work with the FoPWH to preserve Park Wood. We are now looking at alternative solutions and have invited a panel of interested parties along to give their views and answer your questions. This is your chance to have your say.
Your support is vital if we are to save this precious community asset.

SEASONS GREETINGS to all our members and followers from the Chairman and Committee of Friends of Park Wood Hellingly.

We wish you all the very best over the festive season and would like to thank you all for your interest, support and patience, since we began our campaign in August 2017.

We have delayed our promised Public Meeting and AGM in the hope that the Environment Agency would agree to meet with us to discuss the detailed plans we have put forward to them for our management of the wood. At the time of writing we have received no firm date for a meeting and have decided to plan for our public meeting in early February, whether or not we have had a meeting with the EA.

More details of the meeting will be posted as soon as we have a firm date. Please do not be put off attending by the AGM being held at the same time, this will not take up much of the evening, nor will anyone be “press ganged” into serving on the committee. We are all volunteers, which is as it should be and proud to be supporting this important cause.

A good turnout for this event is absolutely essential to demonstrate the strength of feeling for the preservation and improvement of Park Wood and we look forward to meeting you all there.


Paul Rees (Chairman)