AN area of ancient woodland near Minchinhampton has been officially been preserved for generations to come.
A charity called Box Community Wood has now taken over ownership of the 25 acre Box Wood on behalf of the public.
It means the woodland has now officially been turned into a community owned asset and protected from future development.
After three years of battling, fundraising and negotiating, all the paperwork was finally completed and the purchase was made in February 2017.
It follows a passionate community appeal led by the Box Village Society in 2015 to raise £100,000 to buy the land from previous owners, the Novalis Trust.
Steve Hemmings, chairman and trustee of the Box Community Wood, said: “After three years of negotiations, fund raising and administration, Box Wood has been purchased on behalf of the community. It will be ours for generations to come.
“Box Wood became the property of the new charity and was immediately put under the management of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.
“We are planning to hold an event later this year to celebrate the purchase of Box Wood”.
The woodland to the south side of the village of Box will now be fully open, unfenced and free to use for the community at any time.
Locals have unofficially accessed the site for almost a century, but previous attempts in the 1960s and again in 2009, to buy the wood for public enjoyment were unsuccessful.
But then in 2014 its owners the Novalis Trust offered Box Village Society first refusal and gave sufficient opportunity for a public appeal for the funds.
Minchinhampton Parish Council agreed to allocate a £12,671 contribution to the project that it had gained from a developer’s community contribution.
Stroud District Council proved supportive and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust offered to manage the wood once it was owned.
Cllr Hemmings added: “Despite these generous leg-ups Box Village Society still faced the task of raising well over £100,000.
“Nevertheless a local appeal for pledges was launched in 2015 and within a few months sufficient pledges had been made to enable the society to make a firm offer – which was accepted.”
Five trustees, including one nominated by the Novalis Trust and four nominated by Box Village Society, have been appointed to run the new charity.
On the weekend of Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 May the Stroud Wildlife Survey team will be undertaking a “bioblitz” of Box Wood on behalf of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, with the intention of observing and recording as many species of flora and fauna as can be found.
Box Wood appeared on the earliest 1830 Ordnance Survey map. For at least 100 years it was unofficially accessed by the public along numerous paths thought to have been created in the early 19th century by local mill workers walking through to Longfords and Holcombe Mills in the Avening valley.
In recent years two additional public footpaths running east-west across Box Wood have been officially recognised, adding to existing public rights of way.