SANDRIDGE could soon become home to the UK’s largest native woodland, a conservationist charity announced this week.

The Woodland Trust is planning to buy 850 acres of farmland and plant more than 600,000 native trees – creating a forest bigger than Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens combined – in the area between Sandridge and Wheathampstead.

The trust says a new native forest of this size has never been created in England and it predicts it could take around 12 years to turn what is currently bare heathland into flourishing broadleaf woodland.

Sue Holden, the trust’s chief executive, said: “We have been searching for some time for a major site to buy in the South East.

“Our plans for the new forest at Sandridge are truly historic in scale and offer an unmissable opportunity to plant such a huge number of trees and benefit so many people.”

The proposed woodland will stretch from the mainline railway up towards Nomansland Common and reach out as far as Coleman Green.

The trust estimates two million people live within a 15-mile radius of the site.

St Albans district councillor for Sandridge Berik Read has welcomed the scheme and promises to help the trust raise the £8.5 million needed to cover land purchase, tree planting and management costs for the first five years.

He said: “We have a lot of threats to our Green Belt at the moment from developers and the Government.

“It’s a green lung between the villages on this side of St Albans.”

Since the 1930’s England has lost half its ancient woodland, either to development, agriculture or planting – leaving just five per cent of native woodland cover, making us one of the least wooded countries in Europe.

Sue added: “Our new wood will provide a large and accessible space for people at a time when there is huge pressure to develop and build on land in the South East.”

The trust’s plan is to involve the community in planting shrubs – which may begin as early as winter – to create new woodland wildlife habitat.

Councillor Read said: “I think the community will welcome the plans; it will be a big change.

“It will in the long run cause an influx of tourists which is good and bad, but importantly it will protect this area of Green Belt from future development.

“It’s an investment for the future generations.”

He added: “This has never been forested land and it may also have significant archaeological remains so it’s obviously important that this scheme is carefully planned and executed.”

Donations towards the project can be made by visiting the charity’s website