Great Cornard: Wood gains official nature reserve tag

Volunteers working at the Shawlands wood and bank in Great Cornard. The group is pushing for special

Volunteers working at the Shawlands wood and bank in Great Cornard. The group is pushing for special woodland status for the area.

Conservation volunteers are celebrating after 13 years of campaigning to secure local nature reserve status for an area of woodland finally paid off.

The seven acre site in Great Cornard, known as Shawlands Wood, was officially given the status by the local parish council last week.

Despite being squeezed between housing estates and a retail park off Shawlands Avenue, the area has become a wildlife haven and a favourite spot for families.

With the support of Natural England and the necessary funding, parish councils can designate an area a local nature reserve.

The idea of applying for conservation status was initially put forward in 2000, and Great Cornard Parish Council submitted the application in 2007. Although it owns the Shawlands site, it still needed Babergh District Council to give the delegated authority for official status to be allocated.

Because several Cornard councillors who were behind the initiative did not stand for re-election, the project stalled.

The recent decision means that the council has officially agreed to take responsibility for the site, which was previously maintained entirely by volunteers. George Millins, who has led the small team, said he was “absolutely delighted” with the decision.

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He added: “Achieving local nature reserve status means that Cornard Parish Council is now responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the site and for preserving the wildlife that is there.

“The area is critically important for species such as slow worms, which have been translocated from other areas where their habitat has been lost to development.”

The site is a haven for wildlife including viviparous lizards, rare long-winged conehead bush crickets, common blue butterflies, three species of wild orchid and birds such as bullfinches.

Mr Millins, 75, added: “It is important for volunteers to continue to help out at the site to avoid the need to use heavy machinery, and it is vital that we encourage the younger generation to come forward and take an interest in helping to secure a future for our wildlife.”

Mr Millins, who has been monitoring lizards at Shawlands Woods for the past 15 years, has created a management plan for the site. Natural England (formerly English Nature) has approved the plans.