MORE than 1,000 people have joined a social media campaign to help preserve the public's right of access through a well-trodden Kingswinford woodland before it is lost forever.

Hikers, runners and dog walkers are being urged to shout up about their walks, runs and rambles through Ridgehill Woods which is privately owned but which has been fondly loved and used by members of the public for decades.

Changes to the right-to-roam law, however, mean any footpaths and bridleways created before 1949 and not on any official maps cannot be recorded after January 1 2026 and would cease to exist.

The changes have left Kingswinford and Wordsley residents worried they could lose their long-treasured access to the woods so they've set up a Facebook campaign to encourage members of the public to document their popular routes through the woods to help preserve public access for future generations.

Meanwhile - speculation about the future of the woods, which were once part of the Lawnswood House estate, has been rife.

The large country house itself looks set to be converted into a bar/restaurant after a planning application for change of use was approved by South Staffordshire Council on October 25.

And there are fears the woodland - now in the hands of property investment and development giants Clowes Developments following the 2014 death of landowner John Marsh - could eventually be given over for development purposes as land at Lawnswood was identified by the company as a possible urban extension plot to meet housing needs in documents relating to the area's regeneration plan - the Black Country Core Strategy.

Those fears have been exacerbated by the felling of a large section of trees within the woodland.

Stourbridge News:

South Staffordshire Council told the News a felling licence was issued by the Forestry Commission - giving permission for the trees to be chopped down.

It gave the go-ahead for the complete removal of a block of conifers that were planted as a timber crop but an order was made for the cleared area to be restocked by June 30 2023. Permission to cut down a number of mature deciduous trees throughout the wood was also granted.

A spokesman for South Staffordshire Council said: "Prior to the felling works taking place, signs were erected at the entrances to the wood informing of the proposed works and providing the agents details. These were soon vandalised. The felling licence application was published and available to view on the Forestry Commission's register."

Residents living nearby, however, have reacted with shock to the gaping hole left in the middle of the woods – and drone footage obtained by the News shows the full scale of the felling.

Stourbridge News:

The council spokesman added: "Whilst the public roam around and throughout the whole wood this access is permitted only by the generosity of the owner."

The only definitive public right of way through the woods is along the eastern boundary of the woods but members of the Facebook group say they will be looking to submit a modification order of access - showing evidence of public use around and through the woods over the last 20 years to have all public rights of way recorded on the definitive map.

Wordsley councillor Matt Rogers said: "A modification order of access needs to be put in before 2026, otherwise all access can be stopped. Current modification orders are taking 10 years to process so we need to take action now.

"The definitive map closes in 8 years, after which no new rights of way can be made and private owners will have the right to stop access permanently, should they choose to do so."

Members of the public who use the woods are asked to submit forms outlining their routes which can be collected from Wordsley, Kingswinford or Wall Heath community centres.

To find out more check out the Facebook group Friends of Ridgehill Woods or email