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Hartley Wintney is fortunate to enjoy a variety of beautiful landscapes, from its formally planted central common and the delightful, small water meadow opposite Swan Court, to the Vaughan Millennium Orchard, Hunts Commons and the areas of wooded common at Phoenix & West Greens.
In 1805 Admiral Collingwood, who was in command of the Navy after the battle of Trafalgar, was appealing to landowners to plant oaks:
“What I am most anxious about” he wrote “is the plantation of oak in this country. We shall never cease to be a great people while we have ships and we cannot have ships without timber.”
Lady Mildmay, who had become Lady of the Manor in 1786, seems to have responded to his appeal by instructing her steward in Hartley Row to plant out acorns. From these grew the now famous Mildmay or Trafalgar Oaks.
They provide Hartley Wintney with its most impressive and historic feature and are believed to be unique – despite extensive research it has not been possible to find another surviving regimented plantation of Oaks planted in this country at that time. (extract from Contact October 2005, written by Pat Vaughan).
West Green Common, a 12 ha. site about 2km from the centre of the village, is for the technically minded, an area identified using the Peterken Classification “a rare stand Type 9A6 Pendunculate Oak – Hornbeam woodland, Ash/Maple varient”, and was described in the original Hampshire Wildlife Trust Tree survey and management proposals as a “site of great local interest” which “should be recognised as one of the important wooded commons of Hampshire”.
The Parish Council began implementation of a ten year management plan to restore West Green Common during the 1992/3 woodland season. Over the 11 years the project ran ( unpredictable weather and in 2001 Foot and Mouth restrictions resulted in a one year slippage), the bulk of its work was undertaken by local volunteers(Derek Hughes, Pat Vaughan, Jim Reed and Doug & Shelagh Dickson) with assistance from the Berkshire, Hampshire and Basingstoke Conservation Volunteers and on one memorable weekend, the Cantiaci Iron Age Group from Kent, and of course forester Mark Hazell.
Within three years the flora species count (originally 94 including 21 Ancient Woodland Vascular Plants) had increased by 25%; the majority of the invasive Sycamore and non indigenous Turkey Oak had been removed (over 250 tonnes in one season); neglected Hazel was been re-coppiced and where it has been protected, has produced spectacular re-growth.
Clearance work around large, mature trees, particularly Oak and Hornbeam, has allowed the majesty of these to be better appreciated and in the 1995/6 season the fourth section of woodland ride, which had been ‘lost’ in undergrowth for many years, was re-discovered and cleared for use.