Nearly half of the wood said to have inspired Roald Dahl to write Fantastic Mr Fox will be destroyed for HS2 this autumn.

The author was known to be a regular visitor to Jones Hill Wood, near Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire, where some 0.7 hectares of the 1.8ha site – home to bats, badgers, tawny owls, bluebells, dog’s mercury, dog’s violet, primroses and of course foxes - will be dug up.

Sitting amongst rolling British farmland, Jones Hill Wood is dominated by beech trees with an understorey of mostly holly. The dense canopy of beech provides a unique setting which allows for moss and shade tolerant plants to thrive in the open glades between the trees. The carpets of beech nuts on the woodland floor provide a particularly satisfying crunch as you walk through this ancient wood.

It is one of 20 ancient woodlands across Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire totalling 19.45 hectares that HS2 contractors will attempt to translocate from 1 October. Translocation is the moving of woodland soils from one place to another in the hope that the woodland will re-grow, but there is very little evidence of its success. Natural England guidance clearly states that an ‘ancient woodland ecosystem cannot be moved’. It is therefore not an appropriate alternative to conservation in situ.

Luci Ryan, lead policy adviser for infrastructure at the charity said:

“Just over half a hectare of one wood might not sound much but every inch of soil in an ancient woodland is precious. When you consider ancient woodland is irreplaceable, accounts for just 2.4% of land cover in the UK, and is probably the richest habitat we have, this will be devastating for the myriad of species that rely on it for survival.

“We are in the midst of a climate and nature emergency, with Government saying it is committed to being the first to leave the environment in a better state than they found it. Yet HS2’s wilful destruction of these vital ecosystems suggests otherwise.

“On top of that the removal of part of Jones Hill Wood is a literary loss. It’s culturally significant, the stuff of childhood memories. Millions of children and their parents have been captivated by the story of Fantastic Mr Fox and his friends the badgers, moles, rabbits and weasels with whom he shares the wood. The story of course will live on. The wood, however, will not.”

The 20 woods due for translocation and destruction from 1 October are:

  1. Jones Hill Wood, Buckinghamshire (0.7 ha of the 1.8ha site)
  2. Decoypond Wood, Buckinghamshire (1.1ha of 8.8ha)
  3. Unnamed wood 1, north of Decoypond Wood, Buckinghamshire (0.49 ha of 0.64ha)
  4. Unnamed wood 2, north of Decoypond Wood, Buckinghamshire (0.08ha of 0.34ha)
  5. Mossycorner Spinney, Northamptonshire (0.29ha of 0.54ha)
  6. Halse Copse East, Northamptonshire (0.3ha of 5.99ha)
  7. Glyn Davies Wood, Warwickshire(1.35ha of 3.27ha)
  8. South Cubbington, Warwickshire (2ha of 17ha)
  9. North Wood, Warwickshire (1.8ha of 5.43ha)
  10. Unnamed Copse off Drayton Lane, Staffordshire (0.2ha of 0.21ha)
  11. Rookery, Staffordshire (1.4ha of 7.44ha)
  12. Roundhill Wood, Staffordshire (1.3ha of 4.2ha)
  13. Fulfen Wood, Staffordshire  (0.4ha of 1ha)
  14. Ravenshaw Wood, Staffordshire (1.7ha of 7.88ha)
  15. Big Lyntus, Staffordshire (0.8ha of 6.63ha)
  16. Little Lyntus, Staffordshire (1.4ha of 1.43ha)
  17. John’s Gorse, including an area called Hanch Wood, Staffordshire (2.6ha of 3.42ha)
  18. Vicar’s Coppice, Staffordshire (0.5ha of 7.65ha)
  19. Roughknowles Wood, Warwickshire (0.4ha of 1ha)
  20. Broadwells Wood, Warwickshire (0.64ha – a further 2.56ha of the 15.7ha site was previously translocated in spring 2020)

Notes to editors

For media queries only please contact Dee Smith in the Woodland Trust press office at deesmith@woodlandtrust.org.uk

Public enquiries about HS2 should be addressed to enquiries@woodlandtrust.org.uk

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

The Trust has three key aims:

  1. protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
  2. restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
  3. plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 29,000 hectares. Access to its woods is free.

Ancient woodland is one of our rarest habitats and once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. It accounts for just 2.4% of land in the UK. Ancient woodlands are highly complex ecological communities that have developed over centuries. That makes it irreplaceable and no amount of new planting can make up for that loss.

Translocation of ancient woodland involves moving soils and sometimes tree stumps to a receptor site in the vain hope some habitat is salvageable, but there is very little evidence of its success. There is no evidence of the successful translocation of an entire ecosystem, its component species and processes therein. The complexity of ancient woodlands makes this even more difficult to ensure, and the few studies that have been attempted tend to focus on specific components such as ground vegetation rather than the ecosystem and its functioning as a whole.