Birch Wood & Birch Wood Association

Birch Wood is an area of broadleaved woodland, about 17 acres in extent, situated in the valley between Bidborough and Southborough. It is classified as ancient woodland because 32 indicator plant species are found within its boundaries. It contains a small lake, maintained by a clay dam on the main stream flowing through the wood, which was originally the Great Bounds fish pond. Birch Wood is home to a wide range of wildlife: birds, mammals, fish, insects, reptiles, amphibians, fungi and plants and is therefore an extremely interesting and valuable habitat which must be preserved.

Birch Wood has a long history, having been part of the Great Bounds estate which dates back to the early middle ages and owned at different times by well-known local families such as the Hardinges, Darnleys and Smythes, as well as by Sir Thomas Moore for a short time before his death at the hands of Henry VIII. It was regularly visited in the early sixteenth century by Erasmus, the renowned New Testament scholar.

By the 1960’s Birch Wood was in poor condition. The Great Bounds estate had been broken up before the second world war and during the war it was used as a military camp. After the war the sixteenth century manor house was demolished and houses were built on the eastern part of the estate. The dam was badly breeched and the lake was dry in summer and full of rubbish.

In 1967 the concerns of local people about the state of the wood led to Bidborough Parish Council taking a lease on the woodland and the formation of the Birch Wood Association to manage it on behalf of the Council. In 1979 the Parish Council bought the wood from the local property company that owned it, thus ensuring its future.

The aims of the Association are:

1. To preserve in its natural state, and for public enjoyment, the area known as Birch Wood.

2. To protect the flora and fauna of the area.

3. To maintain the woodland in accordance with normal best practice.

4. To maintain the lake in a satisfactory state for wildlife, fish and pond organisms and to carry out such clearing of weed and silt as may, from time to time, be necessary.

The Birch Wood Association is a purely voluntary body which relies on subscriptions and voluntary labour from its members and grants from the Parish Council and the Forestry Commission, plus advice and support from the Kent High Weald Project and the Kent Wildlife Trust.