Fundraiser launched to save potential Pine Marten site


Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT) is seeking donations for its fundraising appeal to purchase and protect an area of ancient woodland in the county.

The 26-ha Covert Wood near Canterbury forms part of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The site, dominated by oak, beech, hornbeam and sweet chestnut, is known for its bluebells and orchids. Sitting in Elham Valley, it has recently been put up for sale for £475,000.

Kent Wildlife Trust says Covert Wood might one day be home to Pine Marten, if the site can be saved and feasibility studies determine that releasing the species in the South-East would be viable (Ron Marshall).

KWT said the site of high conservation value risks being sold off in small sections to private hands, preventing effective conservation of the site, if it cannot reach the £462,000 target.

As of 19 May, more than £145,000 had been raised, bringing the fundraiser to within nearly one third of its goal.

Agents John Clegg and Co have advertised the site by saying it "offers great opportunity to the amenity market for purchasers who want a 'lifestyle choice' woodland."

Covert Wood sits adjacent to an area of woodland owned by the Forestry Commission, which KWT says presents a "unique and excellent opportunity to work closely together to explore new ways of woodland management to enhance connectivity across the sites." This could include woodland grazing as a natural alternative to coppicing.

The trust says Covert Wood, being part of a wider forest complex and in close proximity to Blean Woods, makes it a strong contender as a site for the reintroduction of Pine Marten, a keystone species of mustelid that enhances landscapes through dispersing seed and influencing small mammal populations.

KWT is conducting feasibiilty studies this year to determine whether the habitat in south-east England is suitable for Pine Marten.

Simon Bateman-Brown, head of land management at KWT, said: "Under the management of the trust, we can protect it indefinitely, running it as a nature reserve for wildlife. It is perfectly situated to help us connect the landscape for nature, something that our wildlife depleted country desperately needs.

"If the appeal is successful, we will examine the feasibility of using the area for species reintroductions, in particular the Pine Marten."

You can donate to the fundraiser online at www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/donate/covert-wood-appeal-form.