THE Woodland Trust celebrated today as it reached its £100,000 community fundraising target following an Argus appeal for public support.

We launched a joint appeal in June to raise the money in public pledges as part of a campaign to raise £1.5m to acquire and restore Wales' largest ancient woodland.

Today, after just three months of campaigning, the Trust paid tribute to Argus readers who it said had given an "emotive and unprecedented" groundswell of support.

Sue Holden, chief executive of the Woodland Trust, said: "We are absolutely delighted and incredibly grateful for the fantastic response of the community, which shows just how important Wentwood Forest is to the people of Newport, Monmouth and the surrounding area."

Kavita Heyn, the trust's Welsh development officer, added: "The Argus readers have been phenomenal and I would like to express my thanks to them."

The Woodland Trust's offer to buy the 870 acre site was accepted by the vendors at the end of July and the Trust is now hoping to exchange contracts for the sale of land within the next few weeks to secure the site. Public pledges are crucial because they will unlock a further £650,000 in government grants and funding.

The Trust needs to raise £1.5 million for when contracts are exchanged. It already has £500,000 in its coffers, and a further £250,000 has been identified in grants and funding schemes.

The Trust will write to all those who have pledged to support the campaign, asking them to redeem their pledges when contracts have been exchanged.

Among the thousands who supported the campaign was bird-watcher Ian Heppenstall of Abergavenny, who pledged £50 last week.

Mr Heppenstall said: "Restoring Wentwood is vital both for bird populations and for wild flowers.

"I'm delighted the appeal is succeeding." While the initial target has been met, the trust is still asking those who value Wentwood, and who have not yet made a pledge, to do so now.

"The restoration of Wentwood is a huge challenge, and the work starts now to gather all the resources we need," Sue Holden said.

"We are keen to go into partnership with local companies and individuals to help restore the site, and to involve local communities and children in doing this."