HEREFORDSHIRE Wildlife Trust has come in for sharp criticism over renewed moves to clear sections of woodland at a county beauty spot.

Accusations that trees at Queenswood, Dinmore Hill have been toppled “like matchsticks” have been levelled at the trust.

An independent woodland specialist has declared that the tree-felling programme in his view was “not conservation”.

Work began in North Wood last year, but a growing number of critics have claimed that “more and more” trees are now coming down.

Popular with families and dog walkers, Queenswood has been hailed by the trust, which runs the site in partnership with New Leaf, as the ‘place for a family day out, with ancient trees, birdwatching and stunning views’. But there are those who fear that continued loss of trees is a disaster for wildlife.

Sue Simpkins, who lives nearby, expressed her deep dismay. She believed that Queenswood presented an official “Disney-like” impression, but argued that the reality was very different.

“We didn’t know this was going to go on happening, more and more trees are being felled, they’re coming down like matchsticks,” she said.

“We have spoken to an independent woodland specialist today (Monday) and he said this was not conservation. He was horrified at what he saw.”

She felt the trust had been “riding roughshod” over areas of the woodland. Sites where dormice have hibernated had been disturbed, she claimed.

“They’ve been tree felling in North Wood and that’s not finished, it’s still all ruts and tracks from where the diggers have been working, and now they’ve started on another area,” she said.

“I understand there should be sympathetic coppicing - but not dragging out all the good trees.

“Every day new marks are being put on trees; one was painted with a big ‘L’ to be left, then it was painted with a cross. There’s no sympathy at all. We must draw attention to it and stop them cutting more and more trees down.”

Visitors to Queenswood have reportedly wept openly to see the increase in trees marked for felling.

HWT estates manager James Hitchcock explained the work was part of a 10-year forest management plan, approved by the Forestry Commission and Natural England.

“Two-thirds of Queenswood is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, so as legal managers we are obliged to manage the site in the best way for wildlife possible.

“We appreciate that people are concerned by what they see as a change and can accept that in the short-term the work makes a big visual impact.”

Mr Hitchcock said the trust employed “experts in their field,” ecologists and land managers, with years of experience of caring for the countryside.

The trust was happy to speak to anyone with concerns, he added.