Feb 16 2022

Celebrating our history

A huge thank you to all of our volunteers who have sent over some photos and some wording about what you do as a volunteer and why you volunteer, I have loved reading each and everyone.  These will feature in the virtual conference in April. Chris Stephens and Paul Arnold have also very kindly given me the history about the woods that they volunteer in

The  history of the site on which Bishop’s Knoll Wood now stands.[i]


After the Norman Conquest much of the land north of Bristol was gifted by the William the Conqueror to Geoffrey de Montbray the French  Bishop of Coustances  who  was one of the  two bishops who called upon the congregation in Westminster Abbey to acclaim their duke as  King William. Later,  the land belonged to the Bishops of Worcester but the first mention of a wood is when  Bishop Godfrey Giffard (1268-1302) created a  deer park within this holding known as the “wood of Snede“. In 1580 after the dissolution of  the monasteries, the  Manors of Clifton,  Westbury, Snede Park and Henbury  were sold by Henry VIII to Sir Ralph Sadleir who was in high favour at this time. The lands stayed in the Sadleir family until they were sold by his grandson in 1659 to Joseph Jackson, a wealthy merchant, who had been both Sheriff and Mayor of Bristol as well as Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers. When the last of the Jacksons died in 1811 the Sneyd Park estate passed to the Martin family, whose descendant James Martin, wished to realise the estate’s potential as prime development land for Bristol. However legal restrictions in the Jackson Will prevented the break up of the Sneyd Park Estate and it required a private members bill to set these aside  – the Martin’s Estate Act of 1853.  In April 1855 William Baker a builder  of Canon;s Marsh Bristol, was able to  purchase part of the Estate to build  “superior residences” on this picturesque site. Bishops Knoll, a magnificent Victorian mansion, was the first of these and was completed in 1870.

In 1905  the Mansion and its estate was bought by Robert Edwin Bush, a Bristolian, who had returned to England after making his fortune as a sheep famer in Western Australia. In 1914  Bush decided to convert his house to a WW1 hospital for wounded Australian soldiers  which he and his wife ran at his own expense until 1919. When Bush died in 1939 the house became and Apprentice School for the Bristol Aircraft Company and then in 1948 a Nursing School for the new NHS. In 1981 the estate was acquired by  Benson  Brothers, a local  Bristol building firm who demolished the Mansion and built three blocks of flats on its site  but  donated the 7.8 acres which had been Bishop’s Knoll’s  garden, paddocks and arboretum, to the care of the Woodland Trust.

[i] See Stephens C.D. Bristol’s Australian Pioneer- Robert Edwin Bush and  his Bishop’s Knoll First  World War Hospital. Bristol Books, Bristol. 2016. pp 319.ISBN:978-1-909446-06-9


Bishop Godfrey Giffard        Mr & Mrs Bush                                                       The house                                                               Some of the nurses

Here are some of the discoveries the volunteers have made


Terrace 4 and 5                                     terrace steps                             water trough                             Lower path                                  garden 2016                                 garden 2017

Photos and words by Chris Stephens


Lineover Wood,Dowdeswell,near Cheltenham,Gloucestershire


Soon after the Woodland Trust,assisted by a consortium of other conservation bodies, bought Lineover Wood from Severn Trent Water in 1986,a group of local supporters set up the Lineover Wood Volunteer Group (LWVG) which today is active in helping the Trust manage this important wildlife site on the Cotswold scarp above Cheltenham. Local resident & knowledgeable countryman, Ron Coates, alerted the Trust to the opportunity to buy the wood & led the volunteers in the early years; other founders of the group, including his son, are still key members today.


The recorded history of Lineover goes back to around AD800 when an Anglo Saxon charter mentioned that the Abbot, Headda, inherited the wood as part of the extensive Dowdeswell estate; its name meaning “lime bank”. In the 12th. & 13th. centuries control passed to the Knights Templar who annexed the whole Dowdeswell estate to the manor of Temple Guiting in the north Cotswolds. It was then owned by the Bishop of Worcester from the 1460s until the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII with the beneficiary being Sir Ralf Sadler ,his secretary & the richest commoner in England. A connection with another Trust property is that he also acquired an estate near Bristol which included Bishops Knoll Wood.


By the 18th. century the Dowdeswell manor estate profited from the supply of firewood to many Cotswold villages in the area. Ownership then passed through several families until the Coxwell-Rogers ran what remained of the estate;:most of the land in the Chelt valley, including Lineover Wood having already been sold off to Cheltenham Corporation to safeguard the catchment area of its Victorian Dowdeswell reservoir,the town’s water supply. The local water board took over in 1965 & then Severn Trent Water in 1974.It ceased to use the reservoir in 1986-it later became a nature reserve-and opted to sell much of its catchment area, which led to the Woodland Trust purchase. A further 10 acres of rough pasture by the A40 entrance was added in 1991.


Long-term recording by volunteers of the wood’s trees, flora, butterflies, fungi & other groups has emphasised the wildlife richness of the 120 acre site,the upper slopes having a SSSI designation. The conifer blocks planted by the water companies in the 1960s & 70s are gradually being thinned as part of a long-term strategy to allow replacement by native broadleaf species. The large-leaved lime trees & flower-rich limestone grassland receive particular management attention. The creation of sunny glades & the reintroduction of traditional coppicing have been the focus of the volunteer group’s work together with drystone wall building & hedgelaying over the last 34 years .LWVG is thriving thanks to its enthusiastic band of committed members.




Words by Paul Arnold


If you have any photos or tales of your volunteering with the trust please do get in contact with Amanda at amandabealing@woodlandtrust.org.uk

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