Grass track has replaced a street where poorest folk once lived

Some of the volunteers with rubbish fly-tipped in the woods
Some of the volunteers with rubbish fly-tipped in the woods

In the centre of Ore Village there is a wooded valley - on its northern side is a grass track, where nothing remains to indicate that this was once Church Street.

The first record of the valley being built on is an Ordinance Survey Map, dated 1873. These houses were originally occupied by the poorest in the community and this changed little in the following decades.

The gardens of the houses extended into the valley, on the southern side of which were piggeries and allotments for the use of Great War invalids. The street swarmed with children, notorious for fighting. The late George Cornelius recalled that he and his pals fought with the boys from Sandown, chasing them down the slope and over the bridge across the stream.

The kids called their valley playground the “Oller”, glorying in sliding down its muddy banks on their backsides. In June 1942 the kids left their play to help the war effort, collecting a massive pile of scrap metal from the valley and gardens. The Hastings Observer of the day recorded the stupendous result.

Church Street was demolished in 1964. The gardens and allotments became woodland and wildlife took over.

About 10 years ago, various groups of concerned locals began to restore part of the wood, setting themselves up in June 2012 as a trust, known as the Friends of Speckled Wood.

They are cleaning the area and to date have removed five or six skip-loads of scrap metal. They have opened up walkways, cleared the stream and created a place of beauty and tranquillity for public use.

Flora and fauna thrive; woodland plants, foxes, badgers, owls, slow worms and many species of birds have made it their home.

The dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers that are Friends of Speckled Wood find are determined to continue their care and improvement of what a spokesman for the friends described as a gift to the community.

The active membership of Friends of Speckled Wood fluctuates but stands at about 20, along with transient helpers. Members are in work, between jobs or unemployed. People work within the trust in different roles, it is not all woodland management - admin is important too, and that includes the building and servicing of the website. The wood has a steam running through it that has a character of its own and can vary from being a meandering trickle to a raging torrent after a sudden downpour.

Members started off by saving a wood by vote but now it has become an education in woodland management. If you wish to support the volunteers or learn more about the wood ring Martin on 07857 319463 or visit http://www.friendsofspeckledwood.org.uk.