Nestled in the bottom right corner is the old Youth Club building, once owned by MoD and leased to the Parish Council. It now belongs to Brambles Preschool.
Brambles are this year's winner of the National Nursery Recognition Award for Best Outdoor Learning Environment and they make extensive use of the woodland in their "Forest School" ethos. Claire Perry, MP for Devizes, is a bit of a fan of Brambles, and will be coming to visit shortly as a result of them winning this award.
The woodland has been enjoyed by the whole of the Figheldean and Ablington community for over 50 years, with current villagers having spent their childhoods playing in the wood, building dens, climbing trees and - as adults - walking dogs, watching wildlife and marvelling at the huge swathes of snowdrops that emerge every year. It's a well loved resource - truly an amenity for all.
Last Friday purely by accident a villager's friend, who was browsing properties in the area, noticed that the land had been put up for sale by auction on 1st May by the DIO.
No-one was advised of this impending sale which has evidently been planned since last August (info from the auction house about when they took the photos) - not the parishioners, not the Parish Council, not Brambles and - crucially - not the descendants of the previous owner. This last point is an important one. Under the Crichel Down Rules on land ownership, DIO should have contacted the Rawlins family, who still farm the surrounding land from Ablington Farm, to give them first refusal before going to a public sale offer.
The auction house originally stated in their advert that the woodland was "Ripe for Development". After the parish council contacted Wiltshire Council to confirm that the woodland lies within the Conservation Area and that - therefore - this claim was incorrect, this statement was hastily removed from the advert.
The villagers of Figheldean and Ablington are very disturbed at the DIO's actions thus far. We have been able to get the date of auction put back to the 29th May and a campaign is getting underway to try and prevent this terrible loss. We have already lost our village school as a direct result of the Army Rebasing Project - a new school was going to be built in the village up by the village hall until the Army Rebasing project caused it to be relocated to Larkhill. DIO's threat to another cherished village asset is a further smack in the face.
For a few thousand pounds' worth of land, DIO and the MoD are alienating this community at precisely the moment when they're banging on about military-civilian integration and partnership being vitally important for the Rebasing to work smoothly.
We had a hastily arranged village meeting on the evening of Monday 8th April 2019 attended by around 80 people who all agreed that this woodland must remain an amenity for the parish and not sold off to the highest bidder. Feelings are running high.