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.