WORKS have begun on an ancient woodland in Hampshire that will see it get a £200,000 makeover.

The Hampshire Riding Therapy Centre (HRTC), a charity specialising in therapy riding for children and young adults with disabilities and special needs, have started to develop the site at Fisher’s Pond near Eastleigh to create the ‘Wheely Wanderful Wood’.

Funded by the The Veolia Environmental Trust, who awarded the HRTC a grant of £200,000 through the Landfill Communities Fund, the year-long project began today (Thursday 9) which will result in a network of new woodland trails being built meaning all Hampshire residents will be able to enjoy an outdoor stroll in the once overgrown woodland in Moreland’s Copse and the surrounding areas.

Project director, David Le Riche, said: “This is an outstanding opportunity for the charity, not only in terms of a lasting environmental legacy for the area, but in creating a scheme with features that can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of age or disability.”

Chair of The Veolia Environmental Trust, Oswald Dodds MBE, added: “It is very encouraging to hear about the great progress of this exciting project and I look forward to learning more about it and the BOMAs on Thursday.

“What is so important about the ‘Wheely Wanderful Wood’ is that it will make it possible for people with disabilities and limited mobility to enjoy something that we often take for granted - a quiet stroll in the woods, all year round.”

The grant will mean the charity can invest in three specialist rugged all-terrain ‘BOMA’ wheelchairs enabling disabled people to experience more of the outdoors as part of ongoing treatment.

A new picnic area will be built, providing a new pathway giving access to the South Downs National Park, and traditional shepherds’ huts will be installed where people can take part in woodland crafts including hurdle-making and thatching.

The scheme will also involve developing the site to promote biodiversity, seeing over 100 new trees and nearly a kilometre of hedges being planted as well as over 10,000 native and wild plant species.