Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Fury as nature trail 'destroyed'

Cuckoo Trail (from Wealden District Council)
The Cuckoo Trail forms a section of the national cycle network

Residents living near a 13-mile nature trail through East Sussex said they are outraged by tree coppicing and thinning which they claim is destroying it.

The district council said management of the woodland on the Cuckoo Trail, which runs from Heathfield to Eastbourne Park, was essential to preserve it.

But residents, who said they were devastated, have started a petition to get the work stopped.

"It is far, far, too drastic," said spokesman Gary Paton.

"People have no problem with management, but what we are witnessing, particularly at the Heathfield end, is actually destruction."

"The habitat is what the Cuckoo Trail is all about," he said. "The beautiful trees form the canopy of the trail.

"Any wildlife that might have been at the Heathfield end will have disappeared, probably for many years, as a result of the sound of the chainsaws."

First cuckoo

The trail, which forms part of the national cycle network, follows the former Cuckoo Line railway and passes through Horam, Hailsham and Polegate.

The railway was known as the Cuckoo Line because traditionally, the first cuckoo of spring was released from a cage at Heathfield Fair.

The line was axed under the Beeching cuts and closed in 1968.

Wealden District Council said it had been carrying out tree thinning and coppicing for the past six years with its partner, East Sussex County Council.

"The trees now standing have grown up as self-seeded specimens since the railway closed," it said in a statement.

"Overhanging trees cause the trail to lie wet for long periods with consequent problems with leaves and ice.

"We also receive some complaints from neighbouring landowners about the danger of falling timber, interference with TV signals and the loss of daylight to their property due to tree cover.

"Coppicing and thinning of trees opens up the canopy to allow light in and promotes the growth of the layers of vegetation below.

"Within a year or two, the cut trees coppice and grow, scrub and herb layers spread and flourish, and a wide range of birds and butterflies are able to take advantage of a richer environment. "

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