Great Western Community Forest
The Great Western Community Forest (GWCF) was founded in 1994 alongside eleven other community forests across England, where local people and organisations are working together to create a better environment.
Unlike traditional forests, community forests aren't geographically restricted to one place. Instead, they are spread across a mix of community woodland, private woodland, on-street, urban woodland, wooded habitat corridors and hedgerows.
Aims of the project
By growing trees where they are most needed, corridors of woodlands will be created across the borough to better connect communities to nature.
This will help people enjoy the benefits of being close to trees and woodlands, enhance biodiversity and provide resilience to help reduce the effects of climate change on local communities through carbon capture, and nature-based solutions, mitigating flooding and drought.
With the town of Swindon at its heart, GWCF covers an area of 39,000 hectares (over 168 square miles) stretching from the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the River Thames.
The GWCF aims to create a network of woodlands and associated semi-natural habitats in response to local development pressures. In Swindon, there is a target of 30% tree cover across the GWCF area which includes the whole area of the borough, when Swindon’s average baseline tree cover was 3%.
Large areas of woodland have been planted in and around Swindon and approximately 60,000 trees have been planted to date.
Swindon has many woodland locations in the GWCF that you can explore. Here are some of the more publicly accessible sites:
- Nightingale Wood: a 50.2 hectare (128 acres) community woodland planted in the 1990s on an ex-agricultural site which supports a large variety of wildlife, especially birds. Stop by the woodland for a picnic, choose from three easy access trails for a peaceful outdoor walk or explore the trim trail play equipment, funded by the Great Western Community Forest project.
- Stanton Park: a 74 hectare (183 acres) estate which includes ancient remnants of broadleaved woodland, grassland and fishing lake. It is also a local nature reserve with many habitats for wildlife, 900 species of fungi and wild flower meadows.
- Stratton Wood: a 53.7 hectare (132.69 acres) woodland just outside Swindon. It is the largest of 18 sites that make up GWCF. This large and vibrant young woodland provides visitors with a range of habitats to explore, including wildflower meadows, seasonal ponds and areas of mature trees.
- Shaw Forest Park: a 40 hectare (98.8 acres) community woodland approximately 3km north-west of the centre of Swindon. It boasts an array of habitats ranging from ash and willow woodlands to scrubland containing juniper and alder.
- Purton Wood: a 16 hectare (39.5-acre) wood situated on the north-west edge of Swindon, adjacent to Moulden Hill Country Park.
- Warneage Wood: a patchwork of woodland, grassland and ponds on former fields in Wanborough. Planted in the mid-1990s, the wood has extensive paths.
- Oxleaze Farm: 2.81 hectares (6.94 acres) of newly planted broadleaved woodland (2004) near the village of south Marston north of Swindon.
- Swindon Forest Meadows: this is the name of a partnership project between Swindon Borough Council and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to create, restore, enhance and better manage grassland sites covering approximately 170 hectares, focused on 12 sites across Swindon
The main tree planting season takes place between October and March each year.
We work with parish councils to promote volunteering opportunities to take part in tree planting activities. Over the past couple of years volunteers have helped plant around 51,500 new trees across Swindon, including 18 sites in the GWCF area.
Recent new tree planting sites include:
- Common Farm Woods: a 8-hectare community woodland on the edge of Wroughton village
- planting next to Peatmoor Copse and Peatmoor Lagoon in West Swindon
In 2022, a total of 17,000 trees were planted in Highworth, Wroughton, Shaw Ridge, the Railway Village, Walcot, Tadpole Field and in central Swindon.
If you would like further information about future tree planting volunteering opportunities, e-mail CommunityForest@swindon.gov.uk
We are involved in Trees for Climate - a national, multi-million pound woodland creation programme with one of the most competitive grant schemes for tree planting available today.
Swindon has secured funding for tree planting and woodland creation across the whole of the GWCF area and beyond.
Find out more about the Trees for Climate programme.