Dering Wood was bought by the Woodland Trust, thanks to generous donations from the local community who raised the funds to help buy the wood in 1997. The appeal was also supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is one of the largest woods in the area, covering 147ha (308 acres) and consists mainly of sessile oak and hornbeam, with some sweet chestnut and one or two wild service trees. Now that the wood is in Woodland Trust ownership, the public have free pedestrian access and opportunities to enjoy the pleasures of quiet, informal recreation. The Trust will safeguard Dering Wood as part of the landscape and protect its woodland habitats for the benefit of wildlife.
Dering Wood is designated as a Semi-Natural ancient woodland, which means the wood has been in existence since at least 1600 AD. It also appears in the Doomsday Book. Up until the mid 1920s the wood was owned by the Dering Estate. It was well managed with wide grassy rides and used by the family as a place of recreation. Indeed, Edward VII was a frequent visitor. However, much of the timber was felled in the First World War for which a steam powered saw mill was setup. In the Second World War troops were based here for D Day and bombs stored in nearby Frith woods, across the road. Since then there have been several different owners. In the 1970s and 1980s there were many development threats. These included a ‘euro’ town, golf course and caravan park. Now the wood is saved from such threats for all to enjoy.
There are 36 ancient woodland indicator species and it has been declared a Grade I site of conservation interest. There are some particularly rare butterflies, including the silver washed fritillary, white admiral and grizzled skipper. Wood anemone and bluebell are rampant in the spring and heath milkwort and violet heliborine are amongst the rarer plants. In early summer nightingales can be heard.
Since the Trust acquired the wood much work has already been undertaken, including opening of the rides, provision of a car park and clearance of rhododendron. The wood is managed for conservation, public access and small-scale timber production. The works planned over the next few years include thinning of some areas of oak and the control of rhododendron. Coppicing, or cutting, of small areas of trees will continue. This helps rejuvenate the tree and provides a varied habitat. The thinning of the oak will allow the remaining trees more room to grow and light to penetrate to the forest floor. Management is greatly assisted by the Forestry Commission and is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
To see the Management Plan for Dering Wood which runs from 2013-2018 please click here.