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Plan to buy farmland to increase wildlife habitat near Maidstone

Wednesday 29th January 2020

THE public are being invited to help buy an area of farmland on the fringes of Hollingbourne as a haven for wildlife.

The Woodland Trust has safeguarded more than 71,000 acres from development since it formed in 1972. The charity says the land, off the Pilgrims’ Way, would link two parcels of woodland it bought,with the help of the public in 1997 and 2017 to create The Hucking Estate.

Estate manager Clive Steward says the additional 61 acres of farmland - from Collyers Wents at Bicknor to Allington Farm, Hollingbourne - will link the two woods and provide a protective wildlife corridor of more than 740 acres.

The charity says the land has been offered to the Trust by the landowner and it hopes to be in a position to buy the land - part arable part woodland - by the end of the year.

Clive (pictured) said: “Hucking is a wonderful and very precious site. It not only has ancient woodland, but is home to rare birds - at least 10 that have threatened status; 21 different butterflies, and three species of bat.
“Our plan to join the new extension with the two existing parts of the estate will dramatically increase its size and provide new corridors for wildlife to move around the whole estate.”

Since acquiring different parts of the site the Trust has planted 238,000 trees to buffer its ancient woodland. It hopes the public will now help it raise the £400,000 needed to buy the "connecting piece" to its wildlife haven.

Clive adds: “The larger the area of tree cover we have, the more resilient and healthy the entire estate will be - making sure the precious North Downs landscape is fit for the future.”

The Woodland Trust says if it succeeds in raising the money to buy the site, the charity aims to naturally regenerate the farmland landscape, meaning that saplings will seed themselves and a young woodland will develop and thrive over time.  A small area will be planted with trees too. Some areas will remain as managed chalk grassland, a priority habitat that has seen a loss of up to 85% in the Kent Downs.
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