Tucked between the two main routes up to the Pinehurst Circle, Swindon has its own secret forest.

Connecting Pinehurst Road and Cricklade Road, 19 acres of woodland lies teaming with wildlife. Yet even some locals admit they have never heard of it.

Hreod Burna Urban Forest comprises four broad areas including Kembrey Copse, Cricklade Field, a wildflower meadow and a picnic field planted with 350 trees.

It takes its name from the brook running through it – the Hreod Burna – which means ‘rushy brook’ in Anglo-Saxon.

This runs beneath Cricklade Road near the Gorse Hill Chinese takeaway and the Hawthorn Pharmacy, and continues to Akers Way where it joins the River Ray.

“It’s a wonderful woodland centred on a lovely brook,” said Steve Thompson, chairman of HBUF.

“Our aim is to connect people with nature,” he added.

Oak, willow, elm, sycamore, rowan and fruit trees, are just a few of the species you can find here.

“Pinehurst is one of the most deprived areas of Swindon, and getting kids to interact with nature is really important,” continued Steve.

“There are so many benefits. It’s better for your health and it’s good for the mind. Forests are really good places for improving mental health.

“We’re building, or growing, something here for the whole community to enjoy,” he added.

HBUF formed out of local resistance groups that came together to oppose a housing development on the land in 2008.

Steve said: “The consortium eventually withdrew, and the leader of the council at the time Rod Bluh said we could have it if we wanted it.

“He said this was a worthless bit of scrub with no biological worth,” added Steve.

Now the area has abundant wildlife and, even on a cold winter’s afternoon, the air is filled with birdsong.

Steve has seen red kites circling overhead as well as buzzards, sparrowhawks, woodpeckers, goldcrests and tree creepers, alongside more well known garden birds.

“I’ve seen rare things like a woodcock,” he said

“And once I even saw a kingfisher coming out of the brook.

“It’s quite good that you can see all that in the middle of Swindon,” Steve added.

Muntjac and roe deer live in the forest, and there is a large badger sett in Kingswood Copse.

Come springtime the forest floor will be covered in cow parsley, bluebells and primroses, and HBUF installed a rewilding beehive in the wildflower meadow two years ago.

“Last year we had a huge swarm of bees in it,” said Steve.

“The man who installed it put some honey comb in and the bees came on their own.”

The whole area used to be allotments during the Second World War – the ecosystem now thriving here is only 50 years old.

Steve continued: “My favourite time of the year to come here is in spring, in the early morning. Or in high summer to watch the bees.

“I love the bridge leading into Kembrey Copse. To stand there looking at the movement of the water over the waterfall. It’s very soothing, hearing the water rippling over the stones.

“You don’t get that anywhere else in Swindon. It’s quite amazing that this all here. When people are brought round here they’re amazed that we have this it.”

Other notable landmarks include the famous hollow oak and the fallen willow tree, a popular play site with local children

“Trees are so important,” said Steve.

“Trees give us oxygen, they make the ground soft to absorb water, which this area desperately needs. Swindon has eight per cent tree cover. Natural England says we need at least 20 per cent so we’ve got some ground to make up.”

Long term the group would like to introduce water voles or beavers to the brook.