Early history

The site was once part of the great Forest of Sherwood. The area is likely to have witnessed invaders such as the Romans, Vikings and Saxons. Gedling, or Chellinge, as it is known in the Doomsday Book, was a small Saxon village until the Normans arrived. For hundreds of years, the villagers farmed and tended their land, as the ridge and furrow marks throughout Gedling, and in this area in particular, show us.

Wind-blown snow highlighting the ridge and furrows in the meadows in 2013

In later centuries, this area was probably included in what is known as the Thorneywood Chase. Gedling Manor or Gedling Lodge, as it was sometimes known (not to be confused with Gedling House), was a hunting lodge, and was visited by Kings of England who enjoyed the hunting in the area.

18th and 19th century

It is likely that Gedling House was built around the period 1795–1796. The woods and meadows around the house are likely to have been landscaped into broadly their present shape at that time. This was done in the style of the time, with curved boundaries to imitate nature. These can be seen in the boundary between the wood and meadow in the aerial view and on modern maps. The wood was planted with English hardwood species.

Gedling House

The enclosures of 1794–1796 made significant changes to the village of Gedling. Gedling was a village of up to 400 inhabitants until industry such as coal mining and railways caused a population explosion at the end of the 19th century and in the early decades of the 20th century. Rural Gedling changed forever. This is why this site of meadow and natural woodland is a vital conservation area in the history
of this part of Nottinghamshire.

More details of the history of Gedling House can be found on history page here

The plan below shows how the whole site was originally laid out.

20th century

The woodland and meadowland was in private ownership in the first half of the 20th century until its sale in 1955.

In 1953, the Forestry Commission gave permission to Major Rawnsley of Leicestershire, the owner of the site at the time, to fell 12 acres of beech and elm trees in the area of Gedling House. The licence indicates that trees were then between 120 and 250 years old. The loss of these trees proved a significant event in this small area of woodland.

Conditions associated with the permission for felling required that –

“the licence is to be managed in accordance with the rules and practice of good forestry in such a way as to secure its restocking with Sycamore / Beech / Elm by natural regeneration or under planting “.

There is no evidence, however, that that the conditions associated with the original felling of the hard wood trees were subsequently followed through. Regeneration was largely through self-seeding and was unmanaged.

In 1955, the owner sold the woodland and meadowland to Carlton Urban District Council, whose role was subsequently assumed by Gedling Borough Council, the present owner, in 1974.

The meadowland area was let by both councils for grazing for much of the second half of the century. It was used mostly to graze horses.

In 1991, a short-lived local association was formed to work with Gedling Borough Council to support the management of the wood and meadowland. The woodland part of the site was designated a local nature reserve (LNR) in 1992, with the meadow added in 2007.

In 1993, an area of the meadow was fenced to provide for a grassland meadow. In conjunction with Gedling Borough Council and the local association, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) undertook some clearing and replanting in the woodland and a limited amount of clearing in the meadow area. BTCV also undertook a substantial programme of fencing and hedging to define boundaries of the woodland.

The local association disbanded in 1996 with Gedling Borough Council remaining responsible for the maintenance of the local nature reserve. The meadowland continued to be grazed by horses and the quality of the meadow deteriorated significantly.

21st century

Friends of Gedling House Woods (FGHW) was formed in 2003 by local people interested in ensuring the local nature reserve was used as a nature reserve, rather than for grazing.

Friends of Gedling House Woods (FGHW) set up a 20-year contract to manage the woods and meadowland in conjunction with Gedling Borough Council. This was a forward-thinking and unusual step that has been replicated in other areas since.

Professional surveys of the whole site led to a management programme for both woodland and meadowland areas. In addition to managing and improving the woods and meadows, FGHW has an important role in communicating a greater awareness of the value of the site to the local community and to local schools.

The meadows in 2012

A programme to restore the meadowland to its original state began in 2004. Two compartments, now known as the first and second meadows were allowed to regenerate, with an area of re-seeding and the introduction of yellow rattle. The meadowland was registered with Natural England in 2004 under a ten year agreement to support the continued use of the land as a meadow, with some funding to support annual mowing and grazing.

The woodland received considerable attention to remove dead, dying or diseased trees, and some replanting took place to regenerate areas that had little substantial tree growth. Much of the current woodland is self-seeded, however.

The woodlands in 2012

In 2013, FGHW applied successfully for a Local Improvement Grant from Nottinghamshire County Council. This was used to restore the third meadow element, which had long been invaded by brambles and elder from the woodland border.

In 2014, a new agreement with Natural England was reached for a further 10 years of funding to maintain the meadow and provide opportunities for educational visits. FGHW’s contract with Gedling Borough Council to maintain the site was extended in the same year to end at the same time as the Natural England agreement, in 2024.

View looking from meadow 2 up to meadow 3 in 2016