Hawes Wood: The bluebell forest has become a “desolate wasteland”

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image caption, The Rescue Hoads Wood campaign group says a 4-acre (1.6 hectare) area of ​​woodland is buried under waste.

  • author, Lauren Collins & PA Media
  • role, BBC News, South East

Campaigners and local residents who live near an ancient bluebell woodland in Kent say it has become a “dreary wasteland” filled with unkempt and “illegal” waste dumps.

The petition, signed by more than 6,500 people, calls for an “immediate clean-up” of Hordeswood, near Ashford.

Ashford Borough Council said it was also investigating reports of an “odor nuisance”.

Image caption, Waste dumped in ancient woodland near Ashford is eating away at the bluebells that grow in the area.

Hawes Wood is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is an area of ​​outstanding natural beauty. At this time of year there should be a carpet of bluebells, but instead vast tracts of woodland are buried in moorland tens of feet deep.

The petition was written to Environment Secretary Steve Barclay earlier this month by six groups seeking support and funding to clear the site, which began to see problems with waste dumping in 2020. This follows an open letter.

The Rescue Hawes Wood campaign group said that at the peak of the problem in July 2023, local residents could see as many as 20 to 30 trucks a day dumping waste in the woods.

image caption, Some areas of Haweswood that would have been carpeted with bluebells at this time of year are buried under fly-tipped waste.

Some residents are concerned that toxic liquids from the site could end up in the river, with some reporting a “terrible” rotten egg smell from the waste.

A spokesperson for Rescue Hawes Wood said: “We even smelled the smell coming from the bedroom.

“It feels like you’ve been poisoned. And the only way you can escape it when it’s here is to leave your property and leave the area completely.”

image caption, Local communities have expressed concerns about “odors” and potential water pollutants from untreated waste.

A spokesperson for Ashford Borough Council said that so far “we have not been able to establish whether the matter exceeded the threshold for a statutory nuisance”, but that they were continuing to “liaise with relevant authorities including Natural England and the Environment Agency”. “There is,” he said.

EA reiterated that it continues to investigate illegal fly-tipping in the field and is “determined to stay one step ahead of criminals.”

In January, when the EA shut down the site, Kent Police’s local task force said: ‘Fly tipping is often linked to other forms of crime and we are working closely with the Environment Agency and other partner agencies to investigate. “We are supporting enforcement actions.”

He said the scale and amount of waste was “shocking and totally irresponsible”.

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