A NEW Year party will mark the opening of the first phase of a £250,000 woodland in Witney.

The Wychwood Project is creating a 22-acre community wood on former farmland off Foxburrow Lane on the outskirts of the town.

A party will be held tomorrow to celebrate the completion of the welcome trail, which features a small car park, newly planted trees, shrubs and wild flowers, as well as benches and a pond.

Project director Nick Mottram said: “We are very aware of the value of woodland as a habitat, landscape feature and a place for people to go, and we have always been very keen to try and create an area of woodland that brings all these benefits together.

“There are very few areas of woodland that people have access to and can walk around freely, and I hope this project will be a landmark feature that will allow people to experience woodland on their doorstep.

“We have been involved in lots of small schemes in the past but I think this is the largest community woodland project in West Oxfordshire.”

He added: “The welcome trail gives a place for people to get into the woodland and is suitable for people with pushchairs and wheelchairs.”

The Wychwood Project began work on Foxburrow Wood two years ago after purchasing the former farmland the previous year.

Work so far has included building the welcome trail and fencing boundaries, restoring a hedge to keep deer out and planting native trees and shrubs.

It is hoped the work will be completed by June 2014.

The project has been funded with a £49,999 grant from the Big Lottery Fund, £24,950 from the Veolia Environmental Trust, £30,000 from the Forestry Commission over 15 years, £25,000 from the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment and public donations.

The party runs from 11.30am to 2.30pm.

Wychwood Project members will be on hand to discuss the plans and visitors will be able to explore the developing wood.