An ancient woodland in the Essex village of Hockley is to be bestowed to the people of Rochford by local housing provider Sanctuary Housing.
Sanctuary Housing will be ceremonially passing on ownership of the area in Hockley Woods to Rochford District Council later in the year, for use by the local community, as part of its new £17.5 milllon development in the village.
The area of woodland is part of Hockley Woods, spanning around 17 acres - approximately the size of eight football pitches - which is known for its rich wildlife and habitats.
Situated opposite the development site, Hockley Woods spans an area of over 130 hectares in total and are the largest remaining area of the wild wood, which covered Essex after the Ice Age 10,000 years ago.
A wide range of different trees adorn the woods, including English oak, sweet chestnut, birch, hornbeam, willow, hazel and ash. Access to the woods is unrestricted and parts are sites of special scientific interest.
Many of the plants in the woods, such as the wild service tree, wood anemone, wood spurge and cow-wheat will only grow on the undisturbed soils of ancient woods. The protected health fritillary butterfly can be seen by visitors to the wood.
Sanctuary, which manages 2,000 homes in the district, has been serving the people of Rochford since 2007.
Craig Moule, Group Chief Executive, said: “What we hear loud and clear from our residents throughout the district of Rochford is that one of the best things about it is the close proximity to the beautiful Essex countryside.
“It gives us great pleasure to bestow this tranquil area of English woodland back to the people of Rochford and for it to be preserved in perpetuity for all to use.
“We look forward to the formal handing over ceremony later in the year.”
Sanctuary originally purchased the area of woodland as part of its housing development plans on the site of the former Bullwood Hall Prison, where it is building 72 new homes.
Known as Bullwood Gardens, the properties will range from one-bedroom apartments to five-bedroom family houses, for outright sale, affordable rent and shared ownership.
Due to be completed by the autumn of 2022, Bullwood Gardens will combine modern living with traditional charm, being set back from the road and approached via an elegant tree-lined drive.
For more information about the new homes being developed, visit www.beechgrovehomes.co.uk/developments/bullwood-gardens.