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'Secret Army' past could save woods

PUBLISHED: 18:05 31 July 2008 | UPDATED: 11:30 03 July 2010

Liz Coates

A battle cry has gone out for people across county borders to join the fight to save a popular wildlife and dog walking hub.

Hopes are rising that Fritton Woods' secret wartime role could lead to underground bunkers being listed by English Heritage, helping the campaign to fend off a quarry plan which threatens to turn the site into a mineral extraction pit.

A battle cry has gone out for people across county borders to join the fight to save a popular wildlife and dog walking hub.

Hopes are rising that Fritton Woods' secret wartime role could lead to underground bunkers being listed by English Heritage, helping the campaign to fend off a quarry plan which threatens to turn the site into a mineral extraction pit.

More than 3000 people worried about the future of the haven have already signed a petition, and woodland defenders have invited holidaying prime minister Gordon Brown to leave his Southwold sanctuary and visit Waveney Forest “before it is gone.”

Fritton Parish Council Chairman Keith Nunn said the much-loved amenity was one of 108 sites being looked at by Norfolk County Council to help supply over 3m tonnes of raw materials for house building.

He said the parish council and the action group formed to fight the plan were doing the best they could against professional surveyors to save the only bit of woodland that serves Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

“The quarry threat is there just as much as ever. The parish council and the protest group under Rowland Dunn are doing great things between us. We think it is totally unfair to consider getting rid of 326 acres of lovely woodland in exchange for a sand pit.

“And under that woodland it has a terrific history. My own uncle was the head of a platoon of resistance fighters and he had to dig various bunkers under the forest. The idea was he would come out when the Germans over ran East Anglia and attack them.

“He was to float a raft down the river and blow up Haddiscoe Bridge which was guarded. One night he hung shoe boxes with bomb written on them to show it could be done.

“People have heard of the French and Dutch Resistance but very little about the English Resistance. It is absolutely unique.”

Mr Nunn said the petition on Facebook had “hardly started” but already had thousands of signatures, adding: “It's really something the locals are very much against.”

The case against the quarry was building he said and included concerns about the capability of the road network around Fritton and Belton leading to Gapton Hall, and wildlife concerns with protected species like the natterjack toad, narrow-mouthed whorl snail, slow worms and birds of prey all making the woods their home. He also had concerns about the effect on drinking water.

He added that information sent through by county hall could only be understood by professional people and that working out a defence was taking up several hours every day.

“What we were able to understand,” he said. “Was that 326 acres of lovely woodland have been offered to them. Its not yet certain whether it will be one of their preferred options but we are hoping that enough people will sign the petition and write to Norfolk County Council planners.”

Sign the petition at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/fritton-woods

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