What’s happening in Lynch Wood? An update of the gallops development

We are aware that some may have opinions or interpretations which differ from those expressed or quoted in this article. Whether you agree or not, we welcome your comments: please supply these using the box at the foot of the post. Please also feel free add any relevant weblink/s or sources. Your comment, once approved, will be visible to all subsequent readers of the post.

What’s happening in Lynch Wood?

Lynch Wood, which covers much of the area between Lambourn and Upper Lambourn on the north side of the B4000, is a tranquil place. Although the SSSI-protected River Lambourn has its source a couple of miles away near Maddle Farm, it’s in Lynch Wood that a number of seasonal springs turn it from a muddy stream into a river. At times, the river is over 20 feet wide and has half-submerged several trees, creating a landscape of almost primeval mystery and splendour. In spring, the air is tinged with the small of the wild garlic which grows there in profusion. Lambourn residents have used these woods for decades and it is a popular place for walking and exercising dogs. There is no prominent signage indicating private ownership so few people will – until now – have given much thought to the status and ownership of the land over which they’re walking or jogging.

That has recently changed. Tree-felling and other work has been taking place there and many are worried about what this might portend. Several comments, particularly through online forums, indicated concerns about possible access restrictions, excessive tree felling, habitat impact and increased flood risk, particularly on the Wantage road north of Lambourn.

What was going on? Penny Post decided to take a look.

The first thing was to establish whether the land is privately owned or the property of an organisation such as the Forestry Commission, the Crown Estate or a local council. There have been several cases (most recently in Piggy Woods in Thatcham, an ongoing issue in October 2020) where the a section of open land or woodland was thought to be owned by, say, one of the local councils but in fact was the property of an often absentee property company. Enquiries revealed that, although this part of the wood is indeed private property, the owner is anything but an absentee.

The larger part of the wood was in fact purchased in 2019 by local trainer Jamie Osborne (the part of the wood by the source of the River Lambourn is under separate ownership). In February 2020 he sought planning permission (20/00314/COMIND) to develop a new 2,000-metre woodchip gallop. This was granted in July 2020. (An amendment seeking to change the position of the gallop has since been submitted which has yet to be approved.) Why the tree felling, though? 

“I can understand why people might be worried about these beautiful woods,” Jamie Osborne told Penny Post, “and I’m grateful to have this opportunity to explain the situation. When I bought the wood last year it soon became clear that there were a number of long-overdue management tasks, particularly regarding the ash trees. The first thing was to find a suitable company to do this – as most people know, I’m a racehorse trainer, not a forestry expert.”

The company he chose was Wessex Woodland, which has worked closely with the Forestry Commission on other projects to ensure that all aspects of any felling licence are properly complied with. Jamie Osborne said that he was not aware of any significant damage as a result of the work and that he has relied on Wessex Woodland to manage the impact on animal and bird habitats.  

A felling licence is required for such work and this was obtained by Wessex Woodland in October 2019. This is valid for five years, and authorises thinning operations that should not remove more than 30% of the canopy. There is no Tree Preservation Order applied to this area and it falls outside the Conservation Area.

Wessex Woodland has confirmed to Penny Post that it has complied with the provisions of the licence and taken care not to cause harm to natural habitats, including badger setts and birds’ nests. The company also pointed out that it has had to manage a considerable amount of ash die-back, partly a result of lack of active management over the last years before change of ownership. Mr Osborne added that, as part of his new management of the property, he intends to plant new woodland that will connect the existing Lynch Wood with other parcels of woodland and improve the overall tree cover.

Few residents of the Lambourn Valley will be unaware of the risk of flooding. Will this work do anything to increase that?

“I do not believe, and have not been advised, that the tree felling will contribute to flood risk,” Jamie told us. “Indeed, the new tree planting is likely to reduce it, as will the return of some arable land to pasture.”

Under section 31(6) of the 1980 Highways act, in private woods such as this public access is only at the discretion of the owner if there is no recorded right of way. We asked him if this was likely to change.

“I can reassure walkers, with or without dogs, that I have no intention of restricting access to this area of the woods,” he replied. “However the use of some areas will need to be managed at certain times to avoid conflict with training activity or further forestry work.”

A Wessex Woodland spokesperson confirmed that the tree felling has been in compliance with the licence and that active management of the woodland will contribute positively to the long term health of Lynch Wood. The spokesperson was unaware that any animal or bird habitat has been adversely affected by the activity.

“I take the business of owning the wood very seriously,” Jamie Osborne concluded, “and I’m well aware that it’s an important amenity for people in the area. Work does need to be done there from time to time to prevent over-growth and to deal with diseased trees. If any partial and temporary closures are necessary for any reason I’ll provide advance information about this, in Penny Post and elsewhere. In the meantime – enjoy the wood!”

You may also be interested in…


One Response

  1. What is less clearly expressed in this article is that the work in the wood went ahead without an appropriate planning permission.
    This means that it likely also went ahead without the correct wildlife surveys and mitigating strategies in place to protect the environment at the time of a climate emergency. The original planning permission that was granted can be found on the public directory and it is clear that it did not include creation of the gallop in Lynch Wood.
    From email correspondence it is my understanding that the Forestry Commission were under the impression that this was a woodland thinning operation including creation of rides to increase biodiversity. It was only when earth began to be shifted by heavy machinery, that apparently the council asked the work to stop immediately. After being asked to stop, the development continued and I believe only stopped upon being subject to enforcement action.
    The council were contacted for months from the beginning of the gallop construction (during nesting season in June) and were very slow in acting so that the damage was already done. In an email the local councillor, Mr Woollaston, called Mr Osborne

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up to the free weekly

Penny Post


For: local positive news, events, jobs, recipes, special offers, recommendations & more.

Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale