A COMPANY linked to West Cumbrian rally ace Malcolm Wilson has bought Greystoke Forest for more than £1 million.

The sale has fuelled a rumour that the 1,544-acre forest, west of Penrith, may at some stage be used for rally events.

Mr Wilson – whose Ford-backed M-Sport rally base is in Cockermouth – was unavailable for comment.

Frizington-based George Bruce confirmed that he has been hired to manage the forest.

He dismissed posters which were put up near to the forest claiming it was about to be turned into a rally racing circuit, saying that was totally out of the question.

He said: “The forest will be managed in a slightly different way. Rather than commercially, it will be more environmentally friendly, with more natural woodland.

“All he [Malcolm Wilson] has asked me to do is manage the forest and get it back up to scratch. It will remain a haven for wildlife.”

Mr Bruce, who previously worked for the Forestry Commission, said he knew nothing about plans to use the forest for rally events but said it had been used for motor sport during the Eighties.

Until recently, the forest was owned by a pension fund company. In recent months, it came on to the market with offers invited at a starting price of more than £1 million. The new company which now owns it is called Greystoke Forest Holdings.

Sonny Earl, 74, who lives half a mile from the forest, said the Forestry Commission should never have sold off Greystoke Forest in the first place. He said that he is more concerned about the activities of huntsmen with hounds than the possibility of rallies.

But workers at the neighbouring Thanet Well Holiday Park said rallies would not go down well with locals.

“People come here for peace and tranquility,” said one employee.