In 2008, Oaklands College gained planning consent to build residential houses on a site previously used for educational facilities, this is now Tillage Close. Oaklands College granted Highfield Park Trust a 50 year lease on the strip of land running behind Tillage Close up to Hixberry Lane. Under a 106 funding agreement with St Albans District Council one of the planning criteria supported the continued expansion and development of the Watling Chase Community Forest. This forest was part of a national initiative established in 1996 to develop 12 community forests across the country.
‘Hither Wood’ was an original name on an old tithe map. The new wood is adjacent to a small established spinney of ancient woodland and to number of tall poplars planted some 40 years ago, there is also some regenerated shrub land with a small ditch wandering through it. Additional trees and shrubs have been planted in this area, in particular species that attract bird life. We hope that the new wood will blend seamlessly in to these areas in the years to come.
The planting scheme was developed in conjunction with the Woodland Trust. It consists of native species reflecting the surrounding woodland and includes a wide range of species mainly oak and hornbeam but also field maple, whitebeam, hazel, dogwood, cherry, blackthorn, hawthorn, lime, elder, willow, rowan and spindle. Most of them are typically found in Hertfordshire and chosen to suit the soil type, weather conditions and attraction to wildlife. The wood includes two areas which will be regularly coppiced one of hazel and one of white willow. There are open spaces and glades (the jubilee beacon stands in one of these) and there is a statutory footpath that cuts through the wood providing public access.
The local community, a number of local schools, Highfield Helpers (our regular volunteer group) and park staff all helped to plant the wood which began in 2012 to coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. An oak was planted by Sophie Countess of Wessex on 1st May 2013, marking Hither Wood as an official Jubilee Wood.