archive: Lyminge Forest - Questions and Answers
Lyminge Forest (West wood) comprises 440 acres of maturing and recently planted mixed woodland on forestry commission (now privatised as 'Forest Enterprise') land. forming a large part of Lyminge Forest.
All the forest is currently accessible to members of the public who visit each year in the evenings and at weekends in pairs and small groups all over Kent and SE London to walk and picnic in its tranquil rides and open glades.
As the results of current Forestry Commission practice of planting mixed deciduous and conifer woodland, the size and location of Westwood and the rest of Lyminge Forest provides one of the very few remaining refuges for an unusually rich diversity of wildlife, some of it is quite rare and all of it under increasing development pressure in the S.E. England: Westwood also provides a green lung and open space for urban residents. Westwood is still in public ownership but is due to be sold to Rank for approx. £4m.
The Rank Organisation - Hard Rock Cafes to butlins - is one of the largest holiday and leisure companies in Europe, and part of its corporate development plan includes breaking into the 'Artificial village in a Forest' self-catering holiday markets in the UK, currently dominated by Centre Parcs. The newly appointed Chairman, ex-ICI boss Sir Denys Henderson, is determined to out-do Centre Parcs with bigger and better 'Oasis Villages' in more of the most beautiful and sensitive parts of the English countryside. We have been warned Centre Parcs maintain this markets is now almost fully catered-for and that Rank are ill advised to proceed with the Westwood site, which with others like, would form a separate profit-centre within the Rank Organisation as part of its continuing expansion programme, which includes the Whinfell Forest site near Penrith in Cumbria, currently under construction.
Unlike Centre Parcs who were offered but turned down the opportunity to bye Westwood and who prefer to site their 'villages on bare land on which they spend around £1m per site planting with trees , Rank are taking advantage of the Government's continuing raid on the Nation's family silver, which obliges the Forestry Commission to sell woodland were it can. Rank's policy that can only be described as the rape of the countryside.
Rank claim to have looked at over 70 other sites in Kent. all of which they say are 'unsuitable' . Testing this clam at the Public Inquiry last summer, the Countryside Commission, who fiercely oppose Rank's plan, exposed the superficiality of Rank's investigations and feeble reasons for turning down many of them. The real reasons is that they want Westwood - come Hell or High water (no water-shortage pun intended). One might have thought that an example of good sustainable development practice would be the restoration of a derelict or empty site though tree-planting rather than the annihilation of a rich one. Giving rather than taking. But that is not Rank's Way. The price is right, and Rank cannot wait. with Shepway District Council waving them on and Canterbury city Council not standing in their way, who can blame them?
Because the direct loss of most of Westwood and the disturbance to Sibton, park and Beveridge Bottom Woods and the farmland at Mockbeggar would represent a severe environmental and ecological impact. Kent is already over-developed for its area and environmental significance and capacity to maintain regional biodiversity.
Rank display a profound ignorance of environmental and ecological matters when they imply that Westwood was ruined by the 1987 and 1990 storms, and they show a surprising degree of arrogance and bad taste in saying that their holiday village would improve the landscape.
How do Rank suppose Mother Nature has managed on her own without them in Kent since the last Ice Age?
The Rank development would significantly increase noise, light and disturbance levels in the area, by virtue of the weight of numbers of people and road vehicles. Air pollution would increase measurably.
The additional strain on the area's water resources would put the normal local supplies at great risk. The large additional of sewage that would be dispatched to the crude and inadequate existing coastal plant would further pollute Shepway's inshore waters.
The thousands of Kent people who now enjoy the amenity of Westwood in a way that results in insignificant disturbance to its well-settled ecology , would be debarred from it. So while Rank's 4,000 visitors and staff would be severely disturbing what remained of Westwood, it would be Kents people who would otherwise have visited Westwood who would be looking for an alternative site, adding to the pressure there.
Its all a matter of scale and reasonableness. What is proposed is out of kilter with the size and capacity of the place and the flora and fauna that live there to absorb the effects without serious damage- to say nothing of the local residents. Rank's Oasis Village is an example of unsustainable development.
How to get there
Maps Grid Reference TR 141441 Ordnance Survey PathFinder 1231 Ordnance Survey LandRanger 189
From Canterbury (Kent)
B2068 going south 9 miles to a BP garage at a crossroads, turn left and continue until you see a Forestry Commission nature trail sign. Continue down the drive until you meet someone from the visitors information tent.
From Junction 11 of the M20
Go four miles north on the B2068 until you come to a protester or a BP garage at a crossroads, turn right and continue until you see a Forestry Commission nature trail sign. Continue down the drive until you meet some one from the visitors information tent.
Train from Folkestone.
Arrive at Folkestone walk down the station approach past the taxi rank and look for a bus stop with the Lyminge time table. Ask the driver for the nearest stop to the BP garage near West Wood.
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If you can't make it to Lyminge send a donation from the wish list or a cheque to
c/o Alan Kyte,
Clover Land, New Barn,
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