The Story behind the Wood

By the 1950s this piece of land, known locally as the Island Pond Field, had not been used for agricultural purposes for some time; it had become a pleasant place for a walk and for children to play. With the expansion of house building in this area from the 1960s, the field became a valuable site. Developers bought the land and proposed building about 150 houses on these 14 acres (5½ hectares). Launton residents objected to such a huge development, which would have increased our population by about 50%. The field also flooded frequently, therefore further housing would increase the existing drainage problems. After many years of uncertainty the plans were turned down in 1988, but there were fears that new applications could be made at any time in the future. A decade later, Launton won £6000 in environmental competitions and residents thought that the money should go towards providing a village woodland with access for all. In 1997 the owners of the field were approached to see if they would sell the land; they would - for about £30,000. To this would need to be added the considerable costs of fencing, buying the trees and managing the woodland in the long term. Because of the scale of such a project, it was decided to ask the Woodland Trust for help. The Trust proposed that this be one of their Woods on Your Doorstep, and that a large grant could be expected from the Millennium Commission if a suitable feature to celebrate the year 2000 were included. The people of Launton were delighted with these ideas and were pleased that the Woodland Trust would become the new owners of the land, thus securing it from future threats of development. Despite the grants obtained through the Woodland Trust, the village still needed to raise £22,000; this was achieved in one month - an unprecedented rate for a Woodland Trust project. By the end of the second month £31,000 had been donated by a total of 109 people. The trees and shrubs, all native species, were provided by the Forestry Commission and were planted on the 11th December 1999; and the millennium feature – the arrangement of stones, entitled Enigma 2000 – was installed in July 2000. Bad weather and the nationwide outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease meant that the official opening of the wood was delayed until 21st October 2001. Much of the effort to get the land and encourage support within the village was due to members of Launton Environmental Group (LEG) and the Parish Council. LEG continued to work with the Woodland Trust, especially to organise a Spring Clean in the woodland each year. Later, the members of LEG felt that it would be more appropriate for a village group to be set up, solely dedicated to the well-being of the wood. Thus the Friends of Island Pond Wood was formed in 2008.

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