CHAWTON HOUSE says it needs “the help of those it helped in lockdown” to meet a crippling £15,000 bill to repair the damage caused to its estate and woodland by Storm Eunice.
The Friday, February 19, storm caused widespread damage to trees at the estate once owned by Jane Austen’s brother – and the popular woodland now faces being closed “for months” because of a lack of funds to make the estate safe.
Dozens of trees lost spurs, snapped or were uprooted in the storm. An old lime tree came crashing over the drive and another split in two on the Victorian Lime Avenue. An old oak and an elegant 40ft fir fell in Mingledown Woods, blocking popular paths.
Since June 2020, Chawton House has been carrying out pre-emptive works, removing dead and dangerous trees from alongside paths, roads and property so the public can enjoy free, safe access to the estate.
Efforts included building paths, fixing fences and placing way-marked routes and free trails for the public to enjoy.
This, and the swift work of staff and volunteers, meant the public right of way to Farringdon could re-open within 24 hours of the storm, and the Grade II*-listed gardens suffered only superficial damage, re-opening as soon as the weather allowed.
However, Chawton House did not receive any grant funding for any of this work. And after the impact of forced closures during the pandemic and the substantial costs of this work, the charity says it now cannot afford to pay for the remaining storm clearance across the 250-acre estate.
“The work we have done over the past 18 months undoubtedly saved property, lives and kept the A32 open, but we’re now asking for help,” said chief executive, Katie Childs.
“During the lockdowns, Chawton House opened up the beautiful parkland for locals to enjoy. We know how valuable this was for local people’s mental and physical health. The estate now needs the help of those it helped in lockdown.
“The fallen tree on the driveway will remain where it is until we can afford the cost of its removal. The Lime Avenue will remain blocked.
“Most importantly for the local community, the much-loved Mingledown Woods will remain closed until we have the resources to remove fallen and unsafe trees, and repair pathways. The crowns of three beeches have become detached and are only being held up by the ivy wrapped round the tree.
“Unless we can raise the money to make it safe and ready for walkers and young visitors to explore, we anticipate Mingledown Woods being closed for months.”
Chawton House is fundraising for the £15,000 needed for the costs of clearing up.
This includes professionally removing dangerous branches and unstable trees, removing the fallen trees, including in an area with no vehicle access, repairing fences, footpaths and the driveway, and reinstating safe clearances for children to play and learn in.
These woodlands, because of their historic association, were to be the focus of Chawton House’s Platinum Jubilee weekend in June. If the campaign is successful, Mingledown Woods will re-open in time for the celebrations.
Donate to Chawton House’s emergency appeal online at https://chawtonhouse.org/emergency-appeal/