There has been a falling out between dedicated conservationists in the city about the management of a small wood known as Piles Coppice, which is located next to the Eastern Bypass in Binley Woods. Despite its name Piles Coppice is a mature ancient woodland with large trees and high canopy which has had little intervention over recent decades.
According to Coventry Tree Warden, Ann Wilson, “[Piles Coppice] is incredibly special, a tiny remnant of the ancient forest of Arden, even mentioned in the Doomsday book and unchanged for hundreds of years. It is recognised as possibly the most important wood in the Midlands.” Ann claims that the woodland is older than any of Coventry’s buildings.
“… the biodiversity we have recorded there is amazing, 120 moths, over 30 birds, over 100 plants, 16 butterflies, 27 different trees, (many veterans and ancients), bats everywhere. Some species never found in Warwickshire before, one Red Data Book moth and one fungus only ever recorded in Hampshire. We firmly believe that these rarities are only there because the wood has been undisturbed for so long. Their habitat is under serious threat if this plan is approved. It should be left for Nature to look after as it has done so successfully up till now.”
The wood is owned by the Woodland Trust and is protected by a Tree Preservation Order. However management of the wood has recently passed to Warwickshire Wildlife Trust as an extension to Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve.
The plan that Ann and her colleagues is objecting to is not to build on the wood or fell it, but to carry out what is claimed to be essential maintenance.
Ann states that “Apart from path clearance, it has remained untouched for over 80 years, including the last 30 while the Woodland Trust, who currently own it and until recently, made the decision to leave it undisturbed. They have now handed it over to the Wildlife Trust who insist it needs “managing”. They have just released a plan to start felling trees and opening up the rides. There have never been any rides in this historic wood. This will mean literally tearing the wood apart with heavy machinery, destroying wildlife and habitat, selling rare and ancient trees for firewood and pumping all the carbon they are storing back into the air.
“The bluebells and anemones, which are the best in Warwickshire, will be swamped by bracken and brambles. This wood is healthy, stable and the wildlife is thriving, even though it is adjacent to a busy dual carriageway. Their plans do not make any sense.
“We are already losing so much to HS2, we cannot let it happen here.”
The Coventry Society does not have the expertise to put forward a view on these proposals. We recognise that the Wildlife Trust will have employed the best experts in putting forward its plans, but the vehemence and concern of local enthusiasts cannot just be ignored. We believe that all parties have common goals, which include the preservation and enhancement of diverse wildlife and the mitigation of global warming.
We hope that those concerned can come to an understanding – if not agreement – on how to deal with these issues.