Leadgate had been on my radar for a while, thanks to Facebook, I had followed the many community activities and events for probably eighteen months or more. A message to Leadgate Taskforce and I am on my first guided tour around Leadgate. First time also of becoming really aware of Watling Wood. What a stunning hidden gem of a place. With a bit of knowledge about the history it has become apparent this is the right place for a photography project in the village.
In 1995 under the guidance of Professor David Bellamy OBE local children and members of the community planted some of the first trees. A number of years later a proposal to build on the land was accepted, but stopped by a petition with over a thousand signatures from local people.
Now twenty three or so years since it was planted Watling Wood really is a wood, the trees are maturing, deer, foxes and red kites are a few of the wildlife that have settled here, but maintenance has been left to the local people and with little funding and little support it is a difficult task.
For me it is the perfect place to document, highlight and raise awareness of. While I could document the mining operation just along the road that has had swathes of media attention, this community built, community maintained piece of woodland is potentially at risk and there are people in the locality that are unaware of it’s existence. With the continuous house building going on in the area, our green areas are being eradicated quickly,
I am not an environmental warrior, but I do appreciate how valuable small areas of land like this are to communities. I was told how the local council wanted statistics of how many people used the wood when a community interest order was applied for. How exactly do you measure those numbers? People walk their dogs at six in the morning, ride their horses, others come to watch the sunset in isolation, teenagers gather here, people transit across the area heading to and from work. There is no doubt Watling Wood is used, look at the footprints on the tracks, the hoof and paw prints.
It is a relatively small piece of land, surely there should be no other reason needed to preserve it than that it is a wonderful, natural place.