History of Gimswood

Why the name?

When the children were awkward teenagers, embarrassed about their parents, they no longer wanted to call me Mummy and did not want to call me Mum. So they kicked around ideas and came up with Gimble, Gim for short. Don’t ask why. Even they can’t remember. So now I am known as Gim to all the family. It seemed logical to me to extend that to name Gimswood. The "G" of Gimswood is said the same way as in "GROW".

Putting it all into practice

As part of my research I visited as many mature woodlands as possible and saw working coppice, talked to a forester and a grower, spent car journeys looking out of the window and mentally measuring tree densities. As plans were put down on paper the whole scheme came into shape. Within the wood are areas of dense trees or shrubs as wildlife habitats where humans cannot interfere and larger animals cannot enter. Small areas of coppice will give another sort of habitat. I applied for a Woodland Grant but to gain the density of trees required I was prepared to sacrifice some oak and ash by crowding them together. The species mix is all native and across a very large range, so giving a chance to be host plants to most types of insect life. Some will fruit to feed birds. Each part of the woodland has its own character which will come forward as the trees mature. Some will be dense ash and oak, some will have a lighter feel with smaller trees and shrubs interspersed. Ponds and glades will add to the lightness. The species mix is different in each area to fit with soil conditions, adding to the difference in character. In the middle of the plot, in the corner of the second field is a very useful old shed. We have named it The Bothy.

Help and Support

At the start of the project, important support came from Don and Pam, the farmers who sold the land to me. They believe in the importance of the countryside not merely as part of a factory process. Their support and ideas and knowledge of the land have been vital to my planning. For years I have been in touch with the county environmental design department which originally gave out free trees under their tree planting scheme. The trees are no longer free, but the advice is good and they can supply trees. Ewan Calcott at the Forestry Commission office has put up with my over-large ideas and helped to put them into sensible and practical plans. He also is enthusiastic about encouraging new tree planting, but he also keeps a close eye on forestry standards. I worked closely with Matt Jones at the Wildlife Trust in the planning and digging of ponds. Unfortunately he is not working with them any more, but still I find enthusiasm in the Wildlife Trust, Froglife, the RSPB, and our County Ecologist. Whenever I talk to different agencies and charities, they are all so supportive. I have applied for a Countryside Stewardship grant in spring 2003. Again, Matt Parker, the local advisor, has been very kind and helpful. Friends and family turned out over three wintry day Decembers to do their practical bit for the project. They planted trees and shrubs, kept the bonfire going and helped to feed and water the workers – all without complaint and everyone went home smiling! It has surprised and encouraged me how many people have been keen to share in a project which will not mature in their lifetimes; the pleasure and achievement in being involved in something which can be seen to develop over the years is something that many of us share. I cannot thank them enough.

Helpers and Planters

On the first Tree Planting Day in December 2002 friends and family were invited to put in some trees and shrubs in 6 acres of ground and to do sundry other tasks as well. There were several who would have liked to have been there too, and were in spirit, even if not actually there on the day. Those who came along to help were:
Anne and Norman
Annie and Dave Ben and Patrick Bob
Carol and Graham
Claire and Mark
Evelyn, Alex and Stuart
Heather and David
Jill and Mike
Karin, Christa and Phil
Liz and Howard
Mary and Catherine
Nadine, Caroline, Charles, Georgie and Nicky
Ruth and Rod
Sandra and Bruce
Stany and Eric
Sue and Mike
Tracey and Ian
Tracy and Mark

2003 volunteers listed here
2004 volunteers listed here

My thanks to them all. Even if they only came for an hour or two, every bit helped.


In autumn 2002 I applied for, and gained approval for a Woodland Grant from the Forestry Commission. It does not quite cover the actual costs of tree planting, ground preparation and mulching, but it certainly helps!

Combined with this grant I have an agreement with DEFRA that they will give me a monetary allowance for 15 years to replace any profit that I would have made if the land had stayed in agricultural use. It is called the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme. After 15 years it is foreseen that the woodland owner should start to be making some money from the sale of timber, but since this is a project for conservation and ecology, that will not apply here.

As part of England Rural Development Programme (ERDP), the Countryside Stewardship Scheme is something that holders of agricultural land can apply for. The last application of it in its current form was April/May 2003. The scheme is now revamped to comply with EU, CAP reform, Curry Commission Report and everything else involved in the Green Environment revue currently with Parliament.

My application is for monetary support to help with pond creation and maintenance of hedges, which are part of the overall management of the land. They also encourage the maintenance of old hay meadows, so the application includes that also.

Completion of the Woodland

In December 2004, the planting of the woodland was completed, the ponds and scrapes were all dug and nature was already settling in. Despite extremes of weather the survival rate in all the fields has been amazingly good.