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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 July 2005, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Successful bid for ancient wood
Deer in Wentwood forest, photo: Keith Thompson
Ancient woodland is regarded as one of the richest wildlife habitats in the country
Campaigners trying to save Wales' largest remaining ancient wood have been celebrating after their 1.5m offer has been accepted.

With the support of Dame Judi Dench, the Woodland Trust has been appealing for cash to buy Wentwood Forest near Newport in south Wales.

Last week the trust was outbid and could not afford a bidding war.

But now agents John Clegg and Company has said the trust has been successful after it amended its offer.

The ancient woodland, which in Wales means an area of land that has been continuously used as woodland since 1600, is regarded as one of the richest wildlife habitats in the country.

The 352 hectares (870 acres) of woodland is said to be home to not only protected species such as the dormouse, but 75 species of birds, 23 species of native butterflies, the wild daffodil, wood anemone and enchanters' nightshade.

Appealing for support to protect its future earlier this month, Dame Judi said: "It would be a national tragedy if the characteristics of this ancient site were lost forever."

Trusts chief executive Sue Holden said the generosity of the public has meant they now have an opportunity to safeguard irreplaceable forest.

But, she warned, the acquisition was not the end of the effort.

"Now the fundraising really begins in earnest," she said. "It is imperative now that we now reach our targets by the time of exchange of contracts."

Dame Judi Dench attending the Oscars
Oscar winning actress Dame Judi has backed the appeal

More than 15,000 people have already pledged their support to the safeguard the future of the woodland, since the appeal was launched last month.

Wentwood Forest is a remnant of a woodland that once stretched from the River Usk to the Wye Valley.

But most of the native broadleaf trees were felled to provide timber during the Second World War.

But it will be a few months yet before the Trust can start protecting the site or start work on restoring it.

"We anticipate it will take several weeks before contracts are complete," said Rory Francis from the Trust.

"Not that we wish to delay the matter, but it's a necessity of the process that everything is thoroughly gone-though by our legal team."

Wentwood Forest (pic: Steven Kind/WTPL)
The forest once stretched from the River Usk to the Wye Valley

Last week the estate agents John Clegg and company said that a higher offer had been received from a private buyer and that the Woodland Trust had been unsuccessful.

But the company's Colin Gee has now said the vendors have now changed their position.

"The trust revised their offer," he said. "They offered more money and the new offer was acceptable."

The Woodland Trust has been given four weeks to exchange contracts on the purchase.


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