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Woodlands in the grounds of Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, which were once overgrown and neglected, have been transformed into a beautiful area for walks and community events.
The area known as Pudding Wood can now be enjoyed by hospital visitors and patients and the local community.
The project was initiated by the Mid Essex Hospitals and has been managed by the Forestry Commission and D.F. Clark Bionomique Ltd, with most of the work carried out by contractors and volunteers. Other partners in the project include Essex County Council and Chelmsford Borough Council.
Trees have been thinned and coppiced to help them grow more strongly and undergrowth has been cleared. Increased light, reaching the woodland floor, stimulates other plants and wildlife, such as bluebells, butterflies and birds.
The Forestry Commission helped fund the scheme with grant aid and by offering advice, which included holding meetings to inform and listen to interested parties before the work started.
Its support also contributed to new access paths, footbridge and benches and supporting the biodiversity, by maintaining glades, re-planting failed areas and erecting owl, dove, robin, tit and bat boxes. Information boards and leaflets have been provided, too.
Lindsey Allen, Woodland Officer of the Forestry Commission, said:
"The woodlands had limited access with unclear paths and dangerous trees. The trees have been made safe and the paths are now defined and surfaced. Access is far better with walkways where people can stroll at their leisure, the extra light has encouraged the woodland plants and made the woodlands more inviting.
"It has taken the effort of many organisations including volunteers to achieve this success, and the impact of the woodlands on the local community is destined to flourish over the years ahead."
Denise Mortimer, project manager for the Hospital Trust, said:
"We wanted to reverse the trend of previous years where parts of the woodland had been lost to new buildings, to ensure that what remains of the woodland is protected and made more accessible to local people and those of the hospital. The project is also key to the Trust's commitment to improve its carbon footprint."
"There is also research evidence indicating that woodlands help the healing process, and we will be pursuing this with various initiatives where patients can make use of the area."
It is planned that the woodlands will be used for public events and festivals and that there will be a sculpture trail with benches made from wood found on the site.
There are proposals to improve public access with a disabled ramp into Puddings Wood, to introduce a remembrance glade and to improve the management of the pond, which will enhance the ecology of the area.
The woods are set to stage a Forest School, to help children understand more about woodlands and wildlife, and for art therapy by the NHS Trust with paintings related to the woodlands displayed in the hospital wards.
NOTES TO EDITOR
Forestry Commission England is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. For further information visit www.forestry.gov.uk
Chris Johnson, Press Officer, Forestry Commission, phone 078678580492, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Lindsey Allen, Woodland Officer, East of England Region, tel. 01394 450214, mob 07884 234726