Friends Of Park Wood Hellingly

News 2020 – 2021

13th December 2021

December’s Chairman’s Report

Before I get into this month’s report, I would like on behalf of the committee, to wish all our members and followers, the very best for Christmas and the New Year and to thank you for your continued interest and support.

The AGM. was well attended, considering the necessary hoops people had to jump through, in order to attend and the talk by Olivia Morton, the Environment Agencies (EA) Biodiversity Officer, was well received, with a short question and answer session afterwards. Similarly, Peter Hibbs talk on the World War Two Survey, with which we were involved, proved very interesting. This survey has now been successfully completed and I would like to thank those members that took part.

The AGM. was completed with all current committee members remaining in post, although if things go according to plan, next year, we will need to have more people involved, either seconded on to the committee or as part of sub committees.  Several of those attending asked some searching questions, which, I hope, I dealt with to everybody’s satisfaction. I am always pleased to deal with any questions, whether at meetings, or by email and if I cannot answer them, then I will pass them to the appropriate committee member for consideration.

I now come to the important issue of the EA. “consultation” on their proposed changes to the designated paths, in the wood.  I have to say that, I am personally, very disappointed in the way that this has been presented, for several reasons and my colleague David is also unhappy with much of its content, having given me considerable assistance in the compiling this report.

1. Access to the consultation is unnecessarily intrusive, requiring far too much personal detail, before allowing access to the map of the proposed new routes and is rather difficult to access initially.

2. At our meeting with the EA. David suggested some possible improvements to the proposed new routes, as by their own admission, the attending EA. members agreed that we probably had a better knowledge of the existing routes, than they did. In view of this, would it not have been sensible to ask us to supply our proposed routes, in order for those taking part in the consultation, to look at both and make an informed decision on the new routes?  This would at least have shown that they had listened to our proposals, rather than completely ignoring them.

3. They also categorically state, that they do not intend to replace either of the bridges that have been removed. We fully understand and sympathise with their reasons for not replacing the horse bridge, but there is no reason not to replace Maggie’s bridge, which would reopen a very popular, circular, pedestrian route to the Giant Beech, without the necessity to use a rather hazardous route, over private land, or to avoid a very lengthy detour, which includes a certain amount of using the same route twice.

4. At our meeting and subsequent walk around the wood, we were able to demonstrate the logic of reinstating the bridge and we offered to source the finance for its construction, leaving only the lame excuse, that they would then have the task of maintaining it, but since there had been a bridge there in the past, that they should have maintained, this did not seem to be a valid reason for not allowing a replacement to be built.

We would urge people to respond to this survey and we have asked the EA. to simplify access to it and to remove the intrusive questions, required for access.  It is, of course, up to the individual, how and if you respond, but I hope those of you that do, will have taken note of the foregoing, before completing the consultation form.  Should you have difficulty accessing the form, you are welcome to contact us, with your views, or to request advice on how to reach to the site.

Please do not be put off by the EA’s statement, that they will not be replacing any bridges. If you agree with our proposals for bridge reinstatement, do not be afraid to say so. It is only by making our views known, that we have any chance of influencing their decisions. 

Kind regards.

Paul Rees.



11th November 2021

November’s Chairman’s Report.

Yes folks, two reports in the same month. The main reason being, to update you on plans for the evening of the AGM. And to update you on the progress to date, on the pledges made by the Environment Agency at our meeting with them in October.

The AGM. is to be held on the 24th. November, at the King’s Head, Horsebridge, a venue we have used on two previous occasions.  For those of you with Covid concerns, I can assure you that all Government guidelines have been met or exceeded and the same can be said for the staff and facilities at the King’s Head.  The meeting will commence at 7.30 pm. and is expected to finish around 9.00 pm.

Here is an outline of the agenda for the evening;

The meeting will commence with a talk on Park Wood and its future development, by the EA.’s Biodiversity Officer, Olivia Morton, followed by questions from the floor. This talk will include ways in which FoPWH. can be involved in the implementation of the EA’s, recently published, Park Wood Management Plan.

Following Olivia’s talk will be our AGM. Comprising, minutes of the last AGM, summary of events and progress, since our last AGM in 2019, given by the Chairman, financial report, by the Treasurer, followed by the election of officers and any other business.  This is not expected to take any more than half an hour, after which Stewart Angel will give a short talk on the impending military detectorist survey, what they are expecting to find and the reasons for the survey etc. to be carried out in the wood, with our assistance.

I would urge all of you that are able to attend, to please contact us to register your attendance. We still have plenty of capacity, even with Covid restrictions and it promises to be an interesting evening. We are, at last, making real progress and the time is coming for us to become active in making a difference in “our” wood. When I say, us becoming active, I am referring to, you, the members. Your committee is there to represent you in dealings with the EA. and various other bodies, but the time is here for you to step forward and make a difference. The wood is a community asset and deserves to be looked after and treasured by the community. The first step is to show your interest and support, if you possibly can, by coming along to the AGM. To listen to our plans for the future and to have your say, in that future.

I must ask that; if you haven’t already done so, to register your intention to attend, via the Park Wood email address, This is a Covid safety requirement, enabling us to ensure that we do not exceed the safe number requirements, although I think we are unlikely to reach that figure.  I would emphasise that the meeting is open to non-members, as well as members and that there is no entry charge.

Regarding the promises we took away from our October meeting with the EA. The flooded area is currently being drained, in order for the EA. to use their latest camera equipment, in an endeavour to locate the blockage and we will keep you posted on the outcome. The other items were the car park, which is to have temporary repairs carried out in the next few days and the woodland path changes, which are still up for further discussion, prior to implementation.  I can also report that there is a very real likelihood of three-way talks, in the near future, between us, the EA. and the Woodland Trust, with a view to setting up a formal tripartite agreement between us. This would be a major step forward in securing the long-term future of the wood and could also bring considerable extra funding, in the way of grants, particularly if we adopt charitable status, which I am very keen for us to do.

The future is definitely looking brighter and the struggles of the last four years may at last bear fruit, but your support is now more important than ever.

Paul Rees.



18th October 2021

October’s Chairman’s Report

Following on from my mini report, sent out prior to our meeting with the Environment Agency. On the 8th October 2021 here is the promised summary of that meeting.

The meeting was wide ranging, frank and constructive. Six EA. personnel and five of our Committee were in attendance. The meeting started at 11.00am and ran on until 2.00pm, with just a ten minute break for lunch, followed by a walk in the wood, which concluded at 4.15pm.

Chaired by the EA. Biodiversity Officer (Olivia Morton), the meeting began with the EA. Operations Manager (Russell Long), updating us on the current position of the EA. regarding the wood.

As we are all aware, the main purpose of the EA. is to manage and minimise flood risk, the bulk of its budget going to this work. Park Wood inevitably has to suffer because of this, although it does have its own dedicated budget, however, manpower and expertise will always be directed to flood management.

Park Wood is by far the largest woodland belonging to the EA. and as Ancient Woodland, a most important ecological asset, hence the appointment of a biodiversity expert to advise on its management.

This allowed us to raise the question, as to whether the EA. were the right people to own the wood and suggest that, perhaps it should be passed to a charity, such as the Woodland Trust.  It would appear that, when approached, several years ago, the WT. were not in a position to purchase the wood and as Treasury rules decree that, disposal of Government assets must be for the best possible price and cannot simply be transferred to a third party, the wood was put up for sale on the open market, which takes us back to our very beginning, when we formed FoPWH and successfully stopped the sale by sealed bids, to the highest bidder.

Since realising that the carbon offset value of the wood was significant in the EA’s aim to reduce its carbon footprint and also, that a return to using natural materials for flood management, the wood could be a sustainable asset, they decided that, if a sound plan, without a heavy financial cost, could be made, the wood should be retained.

Many of you will have looked at the ambitious Management Plan approved by the Forestry Commission, which appears on the EA’s Park Wood website page. It was noted that this, ten year plan, has no timeline for works to be carried out and in our opinion, which was not disputed, is not attainable without outside assistance.

This brought us to the question of how FoPWH could help in bringing this plan to fruition. We could offer to provide extra manpower, to work under expert supervision, but this would provide minimal improvement and would be of no help in our aim of securing the long term future of the wood, or of bringing in significant extra funding.

The previously taboo subject of a formal agreement between us, which, if worded correctly, would open up the possibility of significant grant revenue to us, which is not available to Government Departments, was discussed at some length and although it may be some way off, is now open to further discussion and will be vigorously pursued at future meetings.

The condition of the Grove Hill car park was discussed and there is to be another temporary repair carried out in the near future, with a full refurbishment, with proper drainage and resurfacing at a later date. This will necessitate a full closure of the car park for several days, but dates will be published on the EA. and FoPWH websites, as well as notices in the car park, as soon as dates are finalised.

The flooding was also discussed and I can tell you that, this complex problem is still being investigated and it is hoped that further action will be taken before the winter.

The route mapping of the wood took up a considerable amount of time, as it is a most important issue to the community and also in the effect it will have on the biodiversity of the wood. We have made several suggestions on improving the proposed new routes and these were looked at on our walk, as well as being discussed in the meeting. Not least among these was our desire to see a bridge reinstated on the route from the West side of the wood, leading to the big beech tree (Maggie’s Bridge), avoiding a very long walk for anyone wishing to visit the big beech, from the car park. Again, our argument for this change was listened to and we also suggested that FoPWH could source funding for the construction and installation of a bridge.

There is to be a consultation on these route changes in the near future, taking place on the EA. website Park Wood page and we would ask that you take part in this survey, particularly in the request for the reinstatement of the bridge I have mentioned. We would be happy to advise on this, should you require any help and we will inform you when the survey goes live.

All in all, a very encouraging meeting, leading to us having a better understanding of the difficulties and constraints that the EA. are under and I hope, to them realising what we can bring to the table, given the right cooperation between us.

It only remains for me to thank the EA. for setting up this meeting, their willingness to listen to us and agreeing to meet with us again in January 2022. I must also thank my colleagues on our committee for their valued input and support at the meeting.

Date for your diary.  We hope to hold our Annual General Meeting on the 24th. November, venue to be advised, at which we will have a speaker to give a woodland related talk prior to the AGM. itself. As soon as full details are available these will be posted.

Paul Rees.



5th October 2021

Chairman’s (mini) Report

This is just a “heads up” to let you all know that we have a meeting with the EA, this Friday, 8th. October. The meeting is scheduled for three hours, followed by an hour and a half site visit.

This clearly indicates that they have realised there are matters that need to be discussed, regarding Park Wood, with the organisation that best represents the interests of the local community. It is hoped that they come to the table with an open mind, willing to discuss new ways of working with us.

You can be assured that we will do all we can to safeguard the long-term future of the wood and set in motion a programme of improvement, in which you, the membership, can be involved.

I will put out my usual monthly report, after the meeting and following our committee’s analysis of the meeting.

Paul Rees.



Paul Rees.Chairman FoPWH 

Chairman’s Report – Sept 21

Following on from last month’s report, We have a date of 8th October for a meeting between fofpwh and the Environment Agency..

On the EA Park Wood Information Page there is a link, “What we are planning to do,” from this you can click onto a link, which takes you to a ten-year management plan for the wood. This is not a consultation document, but is already an approved plan. It is lengthy, should you wish to study it, but contains all the right ingredients for a healthy future for Park Wood. You will also find this on our website on the EA Information Page.—redacted-version-for-website.pdf

We would love to be involved in this programme and are convinced that we have much to offer. This would necessitate a suitable agreement between us, enabling us to access grants. I hope to be able to bring you positive news in next month’s report, following this meeting.

Please find attached the details of a guided walk, to take place later this month, which will be in conjunction with the Sussex Wildlife Trust, FoPWH and a representative from the EA. Biodiversity team. We hope to be able to offer many more of these walks, similar to the very successful Bat Walk, organised by the Sussex Bat Group with themes appropriate to the time of the year, guided by a suitable expert.  If you would like to book a place, please email

We, as your committee, believe that we represent the views of the local community and act as your voice, in our communication with the EA. and it would seem, from the correspondence we receive from members, that this is the case, but we are always open to any suggestions you may have to help raise our profile. If there are issues you think need to be addressed urgently at our impending meeting with the EA. you can contact us through the usual channels and although I cannot promise that they will be included in the agenda, I can assure you that they will be noted and responded to.

Paul Rees. Chairman, FoPWH

Guided Walk by the Sussex Wildlife Monday 27th September at 11.30 am.

The AIRS Photography Competition Is Now Open!

Take part in their photo competition showcasing the beauty of Sussex’s Wonderful Woodlands and how people enjoy and get to know the woods. Take part in their photo competition showcasing the beauty of Sussex’s Wonderful Woodlands and how Action in Rural Sussex News

Look out for guided walk by the Sussex Wildlife Trust coming soon in September Sussex Wildlife Trust

Chairman’s Report August 2021

After a frustrating period we have received a positive response from the EA.

The last Chairman’s Report, which consisted of an email sent to the EA. has been the subject of their reply and is, encouraging. The most important point raised in their email to offer of a meeting with us, sometime in September.

I have responded positively to this offer and is hopefully, a step forward.

In my reply, I have asked them to hold fire on finalising the changes to routes and the placing of new route markers, as this a matter of great importance to all of us that use the wood and should undoubtedly be a matter for discussion. I would also wish to discuss a formal agreement between FoPWH and the EA. and securing the long-term future of the wood.

This last item goes back to our very beginning, four years ago and I make no apology for reminding everybody of our mission statement, conceived at that time.

“To maintain and preserve the flora and fauna of this precious Ancient Woodland and to ensure free community access for present and future generations to enjoy in perpetuity”.

I said at the time, that there would be no compromise on those aims and that is still how I feel today.

Should the EA. decide, in a few years’ time, that they no longer require the wood, there has to be some safeguard built into any agreement with them.

Paul Rees. Chairman, FoPWH

27th July 2021

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of guiding the Seaford Natural History Society around Park Wood. They very much enjoyed the morning (despite some rather muddy conditions) and pointed out many fascinating plant and fungi which I would normally never of noticed, including a delicate helleborine orchid. They suggested a full plant and fungi survey be carried out which I will suggest to the Environment Agency.

July Chairman’s Report

In order to show how things are progressing and how your committee is trying to engage with the Environment Agency.  I have taken the unusual step of reproducing an email, sent by FoPWH to the EA. as this month’s Chairman’s Report. I cannot reproduce the incoming email for legal reasons, but I am sure you will be able to understand the gist of the incoming email, from our reply.

Dear ——-,

Thank you for your email of the 12th. July, which addresses most of the points raised in my last email and does help us to a better understanding of the current position of the EA. It does however raise several points, which require some clarification.

As a committee, we have discussed the progress you, the EA. are making and the views I set out below, are those of our committee and I believe, these also reflect the views of our members and social media followers.

There are two areas, which are currently of concern and we feel that these should be addressed now, as the EA’s position on these will be of fundamental importance to our members.

1. Commitment not to dispose of the wood.

We are unsure of your “turning a tanker analogy” and your passing statement that, “we need to build a business case.”

Our understanding was that Park Wood has been accepted as part of a wider EA. initiative, that Matt Brazier was in touch with us about last year and that it is the details of future management and its funding, that are to be resolved, rather than the principle of retaining Park Wood in your ownership.  Therefore, to settle our and the community’s anxieties, please, can you simply confirm that the EA. has agreed that the wood be retained, with the objective that it fulfils several complimentary functions. Namely, biodiversity, conservation (and net gain), improved Ancient Woodland management, carbon capture and quiet enjoyment for the public.

2. Consultation in developing a management plan

I should emphasise that the FoPWH committee broadly welcomes the range of management measures that you are planning, as mentioned on your new Park Wood web page, (, as part of a new management plan. As you may recall, we drafted an outline Woodland Management Plan ourselves in 2018/19 and I reattach it for your reference.

We are pleased to note that you are looking at improvements to community access, but would suggest that attention to the cause of the annual flooding of the main access to the wood from the car park, be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

In the same way that you have discussed equestrian access, (which represents a comparatively small use of the wood, in comparison to pedestrian access), it would surely be helpful in identifying sustainable routes, both in terms of meeting community needs, as well as avoiding sensitive areas and for a discussion on these matters to take place with FoPWH., since, as far as I am aware, we are the only organisation representing all interest groups.  Indeed, for the same reasons, we would expect “community engagement”, to involve FoPWH. in preparing the baseline management plan, that you have commissioned. I reluctantly accept that discussion on any future, formal joint management agreement is not currently on the table, but we see this as a separate issue to discussions on “community engagement”.  The EA. properly consulting with FoPWH., as the principal community group, whose sole purpose is and always has been, the wellbeing and long-term protection of Park Wood, must surely be seen as good practice by the EA?

Finally, I would question your reluctance to refer specifically to FoPWH., simply mentioning “local interest groups” in your references to Park Wood? We have been in existence for four years, and as stated, are the only viable interest group, with membership of approximately 270 and a social media following in excess of 1,200.  Contrary to some opinions, we are not the enemy of the EA., simply an interest group, genuinely passionate about the conservation and long-term future of Park Wood and would genuinely welcome the opportunity to work with the EA. towards this goal.

Paul Rees. (Chairman FoPWH)

I must mention, before closing this month’s report, something that has been brought to my attention by the EA. This is the cutting of ivy, growing on trees in the wood and the creation of new paths, to the detriment of the delicate ecology of the wood.  FoPWH does not condone any unauthorised activity concerning the ecology of the wood and anything other than clearing overgrowth back to path margins from designated paths, is strongly condemned.   Any work carried out by FoPWH in the event of an agreement being reached with the EA., will be under the strict guidance of the EA. Biodiversity Officer and the Woodland Trust.

Paul Rees.



June Report 2021

After last month’s rather gloomy report, I have a slightly more optimistic message this month, but it is a very cautiously optimistic message.

Before I get onto that I would like to thank you for the messages of support I received from several members, following last month’s report and I apologise for not yet having replied to those, but I have been indisposed for the last fortnight and am only just getting back to normal.

Following on from last month’s report and the lack of response to my email to the local office of the Environment Agency.  I emailed the Area Director’s office and received a positive reply, stating that they were looking at ways to work with the local community and would be in contact with us when they had decided on budgeting and a management plan.  This seemed to us, to be a back to front way of working, since we could, with the right agreement, be in a position to assist financially and also that would affect the type of management plan that could be achieved. To this end I have again emailed the Area Director in the hope that they will reconsider delaying meeting with us, especially since I have suggested to them, that there is a type of annually renewable agreement we could enter into, which has been used successfully for the last forty years between Bexhill Highwoods and Rother District Council.  Watch this space!

Having had our first committee meeting for well over a year, it seems that we are all still as determined as ever to do our best for our members, the community and the wood and will continue to exert maximum pressure on the EA. to listen to us, to speak to us and to work with us. It is now time for the EA. to make good on its promises and to engage in meaningful, face to face meetings with us.

Welcome to the Environment Agency’s online consultation hub

Finally, in the email from the EA. there is a link to an information page, which invites you put your name forward as a volunteer for Park Wood. Should you decide to respond to this I would ask that you add to your name, “FoPWH member”.#

Here is that link;

Kind regards

Paul Rees. Chairman FoPWH

May Report 2021

I am sorry to say that there is very little positive news to report this month.

The fallen tree, which has been blocking one of the main paths, has at last been cleared, but the flooded area, which was pumped dry after the Easter holiday, is now rapidly filling up again, whilst the various interested parties seem incapable of making any decision on effecting a permanent solution to the problem.

I emailed the Environment Agency on the 30th April, requesting discussions regarding the flooding and also asking for a meeting with FoPWH. to discuss future cooperation between us, regarding maintenance and improvement of the wood. To date, no reply.

This does not bode well and strengthens my view, that most of those at the EA. involved with Park Wood, have no interest in the wood, other than for its ability to help in their carbon capture figures. I had hoped that we could have meaningful talks, with EA. employees, able to speak with some authority on the subject and work towards a partnership, which would benefit the wood, the local community and the EA.

I am determined that we will not be side-lined, as we were in 2018, when our efforts to reach a working agreement met with months of delay, followed by a complete and abrupt withdrawal of the original offer, to produce a draft management plan and a refusal to even look at the plan that we had produced.

We now have a very substantial membership and a large following on social media, as well as friends in high places and in the media. Some of you may remember our appearance on BBC South East News and extensive press coverage, in the early days of our formation and I have no doubt that, if necessary, we could call upon you, our members and followers, for your support, should this become necessary.

The ball is very much in the EA’s court now and if action from them is not forthcoming within the next couple of months we will have no alternative but to seek maximum publicity for our cause.

For the sake of the wood and the community, we must have some real input into its management.

Paul Rees.

Chairman FoPWH

April’s Chairman’s Report 2021

It has been great to see how much people are enjoying the wood at this wonderful time of the year. Thank you for all your pictures and comments, which are very much appreciated.

I have noticed that the wood anemones, primroses, violets and celandine have all produced bumper crops this year, which must bode well for the bluebells, which are now beginning to show. I notice the changes day on day, as I take my daily dog walk round the wood, it is amazing how it is possible to see a difference each day.


I emailed the EA. a couple of weeks ago, for an update on progress towards a decision on the future of the wood and the flooding and received a reply today. It seems that things are progressing in a positive direction, but it was not clear whether a final decision has yet been reached and I have asked for confirmation on this point and also for a meeting in the near future.

As regards the flooding, many of you will have noticed that the last of the water was pumped out on the first couple of days after Easter and all that remains now, is to find the source of the blockage. I have stressed the importance of solving this problem, as without a solution it will inevitably flood again, preventing access from the car park and killing off more trees in the flood area. We will keep the pressure on and let you know how things progress.

After a largely positive report, I must have one gripe and this concerns the inexplicable practice of hanging bags of dog poo on tree branches! Please;

IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BIN IT DON’T BAG IT. “Stick and flick” is a much more environmentally friendly solution.

Paul Rees. Chairman, FoPWH

Chairman’s Report 

As you can no doubt guess, there has been little change since last month, but there has been some progress with the flooding issue and we now have assurances that as soon as practicable, the area will be drained, so that a camera inspection of the culvert can be carried out, in order to locate the blockage.

I can also report that the NHS. have fenced the area more securely, after I reported to them, that children had been seen playing in the flood water!

I shall be making contact with the area director of the Environment Agency within the next week or two for an update on the situation regarding the future of the wood and also to find out the conclusions reached in the report that was carried out on their behalf last year and in which I was involved with.

I would like to remind those of you who are still facebook followers and not yet members, that, membership is free this year, due to the Covid pandemic and all you need to do to become a member, is to register your email address with the membership secretary, for full membership until January 2022.  Please send your name and email address to

Your email details will only ever be used to contact you by FoPWH and will never be passed to any third party, or used for anything other than business concerning Park Wood. You also retain the right to have your details deleted from the membership list at any time, should you so wish.

Kind regards, 

Paul Rees. Chairman, FoPWH

Chairman’s Report – January 2021

Firstly, I must wish everybody a slightly belated, Happy and healthy New Year.

As you can imagine, with another lockdown, there is unlikely to be any progress with a decision on the future of the wood in the near future. However, it is still possible that a decision could be made before the end of the financial year and it is to be hoped that the Environment Agency would inform us of any decision, even if they are not prepared to involve us in that process.

My hope is that they will retain ownership and that we will be able to enter into some sort of formal agreement with them, for us to maintain the wood. I know that, at a local level at least, they do not want any such agreement with us, however this would mean, by their own admission, that, because of budget restrictions and other priorities, they would only be able to carry out basic maintenance, as they are currently doing. The result of this would be, the continued deterioration of the wood and, given their history, no guarantee of its long-term future.

Should this situation arise we are now in a much stronger position to challenge a decision that went against us, than when we set up FoPWH., having learnt a lot since 2017 and gathered a large membership and following, as well as some powerful friends in high places. However, I hope that good sense will prevail and that we can look forward to a harmonious working partnership with the EA., to the benefit of the community and the environment.

We have also considered the subject of subscriptions for 2021 and have decided in the circumstances not to ask anyone to pay them.  Any one on the membership list as it stands at present, will continue to receive updates and we will review it again towards the end of the year.  With this free membership in mind, if you know of any likeminded friends, neighbours, family, Facebook followers or anyone that you think might have an interest in the wood and what we are trying to achieve, please send their name(s) and email addresses to the Park Wood email address and they can be added to the membership list as well or go to the become a member page.  The more the merrier!

Kind regards 

Paul Rees, Chairman

PS. I did say in my December report, that normal service would be resumed in the New Year, so I am sure you will not be too surprised by this month’s offering.

I have decided not put out my usual Chairman’s Report this month, as it is the season of goodwill to all men, making the rant I would like to have, inappropriate, but you can be sure, things will be back to normal in the New Year.

On behalf of the committee, I would like to wish all our members and followers the very best for Christmas and the New Year and to thank you sincerely for your support since we started our campaign to secure the future of the wood, in August 2017. Yes it really is that long ago!

Covid has stopped almost all progress this year, but I think we will see some decisions being made in 2021, before the end of the financial year. We will do our best to have some input to any decision making and will certainly keep you informed on any developments.

Regards and best wishes to you all,

Paul Rees.Chairman, FoPWH


Chairman’s Report

This month we need to cover the subject of the AGM. Clearly we cannot hold our usual meeting at the King’s Head, a great shame, as it is usually well attended and we very much enjoy the opportunity to meet up with you all.

The current committee are all willing to remain in post for another year, however this does not stop any member putting themselves forward for any of the committee positions, as long as they are seconded by another member and their nomination is with the Membership Secretary before the 30th November 2020. In the event of someone wishing to stand against one of the current committee an online ballot of members would need to be held during December to decide the outcome.

The accounts for this year have been prepared.  Our financial year ends on the 31st October and are available for anyone that would like to have a copy.  Also available are the accounts for the previous year and the minutes of the 2019 AGM, again if anyone would like to have a copy.  

The vexed question of the flooded footpath is with us again and you may wonder why it has not been resolved during the summer months. Obviously the long lockdown, which started in March, has not helped and despite our best efforts, neither the NHS, who own the flooded land, or the Environment Agency, whose land floods when the water level rises, have shown the slightest interest in resolving the problem. However we have an ally from Wealden District Council who has gone to considerable lengths and some expense, in order to try to get to the root of the problem. It seems that we need to find the line of the original Victorian drainage system, the plans of which are held in Falmer, we know where the water should leave the wood and pass under the road, but we need to find where it exits on the other side. We have a couple of volunteers, willing to search these archives, but once again the latest lockdown has closed the Falmer offices for the time being. Once we have this information we can trace back from the exit point to the blockage.

I must thank Graham Kean, of Wealden District Council for his tireless work and advice, without whose help we would have found it very difficult, if not impossible, to make any progress in dealing with this problem, which is causing serious pollution and has already killed many trees, something one might have expected the EA. to be concerned about. Also many thanks to our volunteers, who, I am sure, will eventually manage to come up with the information we need.


Paul Rees,FoPWH Chairmen 

Chairman’s Report -October 2020

My apologies for the lateness of this month’s report, but during last month I emailed the Area Director of the Environment Agency in an effort to find out whether there was any progress on deciding the future of Park Wood and also to ensure that he was aware of who the Friends of Park Wood were and what our plans were for the future of the wood.

A couple of days ago I received his reply, which although it didn’t have any definitive answers to the points I had raised, was in no way dismissive and it was clear that he had taken the time to read my, rather lengthy email and will hopefully give consideration to the contribution FoPWH. can make to the future of the wood, now that he is aware of who we are and what have to offer.

Unfortunately, due to Covid, any decision is likely to be some way off, but you can rest assured that we will continue to put our case at every opportunity and thanks to your continued support, we are in a powerful position to influence that decision.

Coming back to the history of the “Friends”, I promised last month to bring it up to date, so here is the final and most frustrating bit.

After successfully halting the sale, the next move was to enter into talks with the EA., which started in January 2018 and seemed, initially, to be quite encouraging, with agreement being reached, that, if the decision was made to sell the wood, rather than allowing us to look after it, we would have sole rights to purchase, at an agreed price, with six months to raise the money, after which time, if were we unsuccessful, it would then be placed on the open market. I can inform you that this agreement has never been rescinded and remains in place, should it be required.

The ongoing talks, regarding a working partnership, dragged on for a year, with many delays and excuses and it became clear, after this time, that it was not going to happen. We forced a meeting in January 2019, as we had delayed our AGM. from September 2018 in the hope of a decision from the EA. Hours before our meeting in January 2019 we were informed that talks were over and the wood was to be sold. As you can guess, the meeting was far from cordial and I left those attending in no doubt as to my feelings on the way we had been treated. 

Following the meeting it was many months before we heard any more from the EA. and then it was to tell us that there had been a change of heart and that they had commissioned an agency to carry out a feasibility study for their retention of the wood. This was being overseen by their Preston office and we did have some spasmodic contact with both them and the agency carrying out the study, until the lockdown, since when they have remained unobtainable, hence my email to the Area Director, responsible for Park Wood.

I would just like to add, that we have done all we can to assist both the EA. and the agency, sending them the detailed survey carried out for us by the Woodland Trust, also a survey on the commercial viability of the wood and our management plan for the first five years of our management of the wood.

As you can see there have many ups and downs along the way, but I remain confident that, with your help, we will eventually win control of the wood and the tone of the latest email from the Area Director leads me to think that this a realistic hope.

Regards, Paul Rees. Chairman

Another month has passed without any movement on the future of the wood and I guess that with the tightening of restrictions once more, any action in the near future becomes more unlikely, in which case I will continue with the history of FoPWH., started last month.

You may recall that the Asset of Community Value order had just been granted and we were about to learn that, within six weeks of it being granted a suitable organisation, acceptable to the grantee must declare an interest in purchasing the subject of the ACV., i.e. in this case, Park Wood.

Hellingly Parish Council were not in a position to put themselves forward as prospective purchasers and the newly formed Friends of Park Wood Hellingly were not acceptable in their current form, as they had no officially acceptable status.

The good intentions and the work put in so far, was now at risk, but the newly formed committee contained some formidable members, who were able to guide us forward and set up a limited company, registered at Companies House, just in time to beat the six-week deadline.   I am still amazed at the way the right people, with the necessary skills, have always come forward, when needed, given freely of their valuable time, always willingly and without any pressure. Without this help and expert knowledge our campaign would have died within weeks of it being started, as passion and enthusiasm alone would not have been enough to sustain it. All of this expertise is still at the heart of the committee three years on and is the reason I maintain my enthusiasm and optimism for our campaign and the belief that we will, eventually, succeed in securing the long-term future of the wood, for the benefit of the community and the environment.

Now that the sale had definitely been halted, the process of dealing with the Environment Agency could begin, but I think perhaps, this part of the story should wait until next month, when I will bring things right up to date.

Enjoy the wood in this current spell of glorious weather.


Paul Rees, Chairman

Dear Member,

Once again I have to report that there has been no movement on the future of Park Wood and despite my best efforts I have been unable to make contact with the right people within the Environment Agency to try to find out if anything is likely to be decided anytime soon.  I guess this is an indicator that most of their staff are still on furlough and are unlikely to respond to emails, or make any decisions in the near future.

This being the case, I thought that, as we have gained many new members and followers since the lockdown, it might be a good time to explain how and why the FoPWH. was formed.

In 2017 the EA. put Park Wood up for sale, to the highest bidder, by the iniquitous sealed bid system, much to the dismay of those of us that used the wood on a regular basis.  As the closing date for bids approached I decided that some action was required and with backing from Sue (now our secretary), I put up many posters throughout the wood, calling for a public meeting, which we held in the Union Hall in Hawks Road, on the first Wednesday in August 2017, three years ago this week, as I write this.

Seventy plus people attended, including several Hellingly Parish Councillors, with approximately another thirty people pledging their support via email.  I was surprised at the strength of feeling, with not one member of the audience expressing any dissent, or negativity, only encouragement to stop the wood falling into the wrong hands.

The Parish Council had already made an application to Wealden District Council to have the wood declared an Asset of Community Value (ACV), which, if granted, would delay the sale for a period of six months.  This was due to be decided within the next fortnight and it was unanimously agreed that we should hold a rally in the Park Wood car park to show our support for the application on the following Saturday week.  Here I displayed my naivety, by allowing everyone to go home, without calling for volunteers to help with arranging the rally, only ten days away.  I was on a steep learning curve, never having done any public speaking or organising of group activities before, but I was determined not to let the wood go without a fight.

Sue was unable to give much help with the rally, as she was to be away on her annual holiday.  With various people that I had met through walking my dogs, offering their help and with the leader of the Parish Council, David White arranging for BBC South East to be in attendance, we had a very successful rally, with about one hundred people attending and the local press giving us front page coverage in their next issue.  

Whether this had any bearing on the decision of WDC. we will never know , but the ACV. was granted the following week and it was then that I discovered that the granting of an ACV. is no simple matter and things were about to get complicated.

I think this may be a good point to pause in the saga of Park Wood and I will continue it next month.

Take care, stay safe and enjoy the wood.

Paul Rees. Chairman

Chairman’s Report – June.  

Sadly I don’t have any progress to report on, either the flooding, or the future of the wood, this month, as a result of the continued lockdown.  I have emailed the agency carrying out the feasibility study of the wood, on behalf of the EA., setting out our vision for its future, but several weeks later, I have still not had a reply.  My reason for contacting them, was also, in part to inform them of the greatly increased use of the wood by the local community, our growing membership and ever growing following on social media.  Surely increasing our ability to influence any future decisions regarding the wood.

At a local level, it is disappointing to see that not all the converts to the wood are treating it with the respect it deserves, with an increase in litter and dogs being allowed to foul footpaths.  Please, take litter home with you and at least “stick and flick” dog mess from the paths.  As it says at the car park entrance to the wood, “Leave only footprints”.  I want to encourage the use of the wood, but we must all accept some responsibility for preserving its delicate eco structure and anything we can do to encourage this without creating conflict between us is to be encouraged.

In response to our facebook community’s concern about litter in the woods, particularly the car park, we are planning a small litter pick on Sat 27th June 9.30am. We only need five or six volunteers and social distancing will apply. If you want to take part please email Sue on and we will act on a first come basis.

Finally, Carrie has posted a request for photos taken in the wood, to use for our 2021 calendar.  These can be of anything, plant, animal, family etc. and cover all seasons.  You must let us know that a particular photo is your entry for the calendar competition, it must, of course, carry your name and those selected will be attributed to each photographer, on the calendar.  Unfortunately, we cannot afford to offer Countryfile type prizes, but I am sure we can find something for the contributor deemed the best of the best.  If you feel that you have already sent in your favourite photo, you will need to send it again, marked as your entry and with your name. Entries will close at the end of August, to give us time to make our selections and to find a suitable printer for a quality calendar.

Regards, Paul Rees.

Chairman FoPWH

Chairman’s Report May

Another month of lockdown has passed with little having changed officially.  However there has been a noticeable increase in the number of people using the wood and in the main, doing so sensibly and responsibly, which I think is a good thing, as it means that more people are realising how precious an asset this wood is to the local community.  Social distancing is no problem and I am sure everybody using the wood must live locally, so keeping to the spirit of the rather vague lockdown rules.  Unfortunately there have been one or two instances of vandalism, which have resulted in a local landowner, with woodland adjoining Park Wood, putting up “private, keep out” notices.  This is particularly sad, since some of us have enjoyed walking in this wood for many years, without any problem and this is now denied to us.  There has also been some damage caused in Park Wood itself.

Park Wood and the adjoining woodlands are all classified as ancient woodland and it is important that while enjoying the freedom they provide, their delicate nature must be respected, by sticking to designated paths and causing a minimum of disturbance to the flora and fauna.

With regard to the long term future of the wood, the questionnaire I referred to in last months report, has been put on hold, as has any decision on the future of the wood, by the Environment Agency.  In view of the effect on the economy of the Corona Virus, it is anybody’s guess as to what the EA. will decide to do with the wood, when things start to move again and I am not going to speculate on this.  However I do intend to inform the agency charged with carrying out the study of the wood, of our vision for its future and how we see our role in this.

Whatever decision is eventually reached FoPWH. will do everything possible to safeguard the long term future of the wood and with your continued (and growing) support, we will have a strong voice in this.

Finally I must thank Caroline Wood for the wonderful pictures she continues to put up on social media almost daily and I am sure most of you await these with eager anticipation, my thanks to all of you for your continued interest and support.

Regards and stay safe,

Paul Rees.

April’s Chairman’s Report.

I guess the next two or three reports are likely to be written under the surreal circumstances we find ourselves in, where most people are unable to access the wood, due to the current lock-down regulations.  However, there is still much happening behind the scenes, with regard to the future of Park Wood.

The Environment Agency have appointed consultants to carry out a study on the wood, in order to determine how it should be administered in the future, to make the most of it as a environmental and community asset.  We have been involved in talks with these people and but for the current restrictions on movement, would have been in face to face meetings with them ourselves.  They are currently working on the production of a questionnaire, which they have asked us to distribute to any directly interested parties and which we will complete on behalf of the membership.  It is not possible to circulate it to everybody, since the agency do not have the facilities to deal with large numbers of replies.

Our major concern with this whole process is that the EA. are not bound by any recommendations made in this report and also it has been made clear to me by the local office of the EA. that they wish to retain sole ownership of the wood and see no role in its future for FoPWH.  They do admit however, that even with a separate budget for the wood, it is unlikely to be sufficient for anything other than basic maintenance. This means no bridge replacements in the foreseeable future, or any of the improvements envisaged by FoPWH., to improve the wood environmentally and for the use of the community.

I have had two lengthy telephone conversations with those carrying out the study on the wood and have to say that they were very receptive to our ideas for the future of the wood, particularly our plans to involve all elements of the community in its maintenance and saw our ideas as realistic and achievable.  It just remains now for the EA. to be convinced that, some form of partnership with FoPWH. is achievable, which, at the moment, is not on their agenda.

The most important thing now is for EVERYBODY, members of FoPWH. and followers on Facebook and Instagram, to continue to support and follow us, in greater numbers, if possible, to show that we are serious about saving OUR wood and that the EA. ignore us at their peril.

I know most of you cannot walk in the wood at the moment, but the crisis will pass and in the meantime, Carrie will continue to put up seasonal pictures of the wood from our extensive photographic archive. Please, all take care, stay safe and follow the updates I will put up as soon as I have any news to share.

Paul Rees. Chairman FoPWH 

February Bulletin
For personal reasons I have been unable to keep up to date with Park Wood business this month, but matters have been ably dealt with by my colleagues on the committee.
The main topic at the moment is the continuing saga of the flooding adjacent to the pond, which seems unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.  Sue and Carrie met with representatives from Wealden District Council, the Environment Agency and local residents, for an on site inspection and all I can say at the moment, is that investigations are ongoing. A major problem is that nobody wants to accept responsibility for the flooding and theories as to the cause are inconclusive. I would however like to thank those residents of Roebuck Park who have taken the trouble to pass on information regarding the history of the site, which may have a bearing on the current problems.
I am currently seeking a meeting with the local office of the EA. to discuss the flooding and several other matters, which cannot easily be dealt with in an email and will let you know how I get on.
Finally, I received an email this Friday from the EA. department dealing with the future of the wood, requesting our cooperation with the company carrying out the woodland survey. We are of course happy to help with this and I am encouraged to think that, after so long with no official word from the EA., we are to be involved in the decision making process. Surely recognition of the importance of the involvement of the local community in the decisions regarding the long term future of this important asset.
Paul Rees. Chairman, FoPWH

News of flooding in Park Wood

I need to start this report by correcting an item put up on Facebook, claiming that the Environment Agency had decided to retain ownership of Park Wood and had a five year plan for its upkeep.  I contacted the EA., as our understanding was that no decision on the future of the wood would be taken until their National Survey was completed, sometime in the Spring.  I have been assured by them, that no such decision has been taken, nor will it be, until completion of the survey.  It is a great relief to know that no decision has yet been taken, as it means that we are still able to put forward our ideas to the EA. for the best way forward for the future of the wood, which we hope to do within the next couple of weeks.

The flooding in the wood adjacent to the pond has been examined by, Wealden District Council, the EA., two of our committee and a concerned member in an on site meeting on Monday of this week.  The matter is now, at last, being taken seriously, but the cause has still to be ascertained and we are hoping that one or more of our members may have some knowledge of the drainage system, which presumably runs under The Drive and possibly adjacent to the new community centre.  If you think you may be able to help, please make contact so that we can get this matter cleared up and have the wood accessible to all once more.

We have taken part in the consultation exercise, in respect of the planning application, that has been submitted on behalf of the owners of Park Farm.  Hopefully our views will be taken into account when deciding the outcome of this application. 

Finally, a huge thank you to every body who has renewed their membership and a gentle reminder to those that haven’t managed it yet.  If you have not yet done so, every member, active or not, is vital to our future success.

Paul Rees. (Chairman)

 January report 2020

Very best wishes for the New Year to all our members and followers on social media.

I see this year as make or break for Park Wood and I am absolutely determined that it will be make, NOT break. Things should be coming to a head during the first few months of the year and decisions will have to be made by the Environment Agency on the future of the wood. We will do all we can to influence those decisions and it is our intention to put our case as forcefully as possible, as early as possible and certainly before the Environment Agency can make any decision without our prior knowledge. We are already moving things forward, after the long Christmas lay off and will keep you up to date with any developments via the website and our Facebook page.

The fact that we now have a functioning government in place will, I think, prove to be an advantage to us in our negotiations, as we have received support from Nus Ghani in the past and will call on that support again if necessary.

Membership numbers are crucial to our cause, so if you have not yet renewed your membership, or are not yet a member, please, please sign up. It is very simple to do and even if you do not use the wood, your membership will help us to save this beautiful ancient woodland for the use of the local community, for generations to come. Membership details can be found on the website or Facebook.
When I asked for suggestions to help raise our profile, I received a few ideas, but unfortunately nothing that could be actioned immediately. One excellent suggestion was to seek to contact Prince Charles, but unfortunately, since our dispute is with a government department, Royalty would not be permitted to get involved. However I have not given up hope of finding a local(ish) celeb. with green credentials. Any ideas there?

Finally, the flooded section of the path adjacent to the pond is still a priority with us and now that everybody is back at work I expect to see some progress there shortly.


Paul Rees. Chairman

PS Does anyone know an Ian & Sally Frost we have received a subscription payment from them but no other details, so we are unable to get in touch with them. Email Jill if you do