Saturday, 21 February 2009

Grove Wood history

Grove Wood is about 17 acres of natural woodland on the other side of the River Frome from Snuff Mills park. It is a huge area of woodland, covering the side of the valley from Blackberry Hill to 'Laundry Lane' - the track that leads to Oldbury Court from Halfpenny Bridge.

Before 2008 Grove Wood was a peaceful place. The lower path was quite difficult to use and most people used the upper footpath to avoid the muddy patches and the fallen trees. In spring the woods smelled of wild garlic and it was quite a dark woodland because of the dense tree canopy. It was a place for nature and one of Bristol's special, less well-known places

The old tithe map from the early 1800s shows that much of the land was 'coppice' or a 'grove' and this helps to confirm that much of Grove Wood is an ancient one, making it especially important for wildlife. In the 1880s the land was given to the City of Bristol, with certain covenants, and subsequently passed on to the NHS. In 2000 it was sold to a consortium of people who set up ‘Frome Valley Conservation Ltd’. This company had the apparent intention of keeping the woods as a nature reserve. Shares were sold and many people bought them believing that this would secure the land for ever.

Frome Valley Conservation did not manage the woods. Only a set of steps were built next to the drain that runs down from the Hospital. Snuff Mills is well known for being alive with birds and animals, but the river next to Grove Wood is special because it was less frequented by humans, making it a safe haven for very rare otters, kingfishers, bats and other creatures that dislike being disturbed.

In November 2007 Frome Valley Conservation Ltd was wound up. This was announced in the London Gazette and none of the shareholders were informed or offered a refund for the shares they had bought. Instead two local charities were sent cheques. It seems that both the Avon Wildlife Trust and the Wallace and Grommet Appeal sent them back, most likely because of the way in which the shareholders were treated.

The 17 acres of land we know as Grove Wood was then put up for auction in December 2007. Bristol City Council (BCC) were contacted by several local people who were concerned about what would happen and they were told that the Council would be purchasing the woods. Indeed BCC did try to raise the funds for this but were slightly too late and had to pull out of the auction at the last minute. This left a local resident and one Mr Houshang Jafari-Najafabadfi in the bidding.

Mr Jafari won the bidding at the auction and officially took ownership on 23rd of January 2008.