How we started - in the beginning...
In March 2005 a ‘For Sale’ board appeared near the entrance of Harmers Wood. For many dog walkers, runners and others who had used these woods this was devastating news.
So begins the story of the Harmers Wood Trust, a group formed to protect the future of the woods. On receiving the sale pamphlet from the estate agents selling on behalf of Cholmondeley Estates, it became apparent that the 8.8 acre wood was being sold as private land with the risk that a future owner may stop access to the wood for local people.
Acting on the advice of a former MP, Paul Marsden, Audrey Davies set up a parliamentary petition. In July 2005 at Forest Hills Hotel in Frodsham, this was presented to Mike Hall MP with a view to it being presented at the House of Commons. Mike Hall continued to support the group throughout negotiations.
It soon became apparent that neither the National Trust, Woodland Trust or Parish Council were interested in buying the wood so the formal process began for us to purchase the wood.
We obtained witness statements from the requisite number of residents who had walked freely through the wood for at least 20 years. These were handed in to the Cheshire Footpath Department. The witness statements were used to prove that the wood had been used by the public for a period of time.
In the meantime a bidding war had begun between a paint ball group, pistol shooting club and various other parties, the price rising from £32,000 to £65,000. There was also the problem of local residents trying to buy the wood which would then be divided between the subscribing parties.
The newly formed Harmers Wood Trust began a written dialogue with the Cholmondeley Estate manager, Bob Miller, to persuade their nominated trustees to give us time to raise the asking price of £32,000. Their reply, after a great deal of negotiating, was that if we promised that the wood would be kept for the community then they would wait. In the end this took 2 years.
There was a great deal of formal preparation before we could raise any funds. A constitution had to be written, amended and approved by the group, followed by an application to become a company. Next there was a business plan, charity status and then finally we were allowed to open a bank account. ECOnet promised us £5,000 when we had proof of other grants. Vale Royal Borough Council contributed and after a great deal of form filling and waiting we were awarded money from the Heritage Lottery.
The formalities of the sale were finalised on 7 June 2007 and the Harmers Wood Trust came into being. Work then began to make the wood safe for people to enjoy and a marathon task had finally been achieved by the group.