Hill Holt Wood

By SDRN on 29th February 2012

LOCATION: 34-acre deciduous woodland situated on the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire border.

AIM: To manage an environmentally sustainable community woodland, run a locally-valued and economically-viable social enterprise, share experiences and learning, and to be a responsible employer.

BACKGROUND: Hill Holt Wood (HHW) was purchased by Nigel and Karen Lowthrop in 1995. At that time, it was in a state of decline, suffering from invasive rhododendron and a damaged drainage system, and the majority of quality timber had been removed by the previous owners. By 1997, the Lowthrops had established the Hill Holt Wood Management Committee, intended as a link between themselves and the surrounding community. During the following five years, they focused on establishing a business in the wood based primarily on vocational training and sustainable management. In 2002, Hill Holt Wood was established as a social enterprise.


  • As work and training developed, straw bale offices were constructed on site using the skills of staff and young people involved in vocational training schemes. Ponds and footpaths were created, together with a green wood-working area, charcoal manufacture, signage, a car park, workshops, canteen, and earth-composting toilets. More recently, an IT centre was opened, together with an office for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme.
  • A variety of groups are attracted to the site, including families, retired individuals, and young people from deprived estates in Lincoln and further afield who come to be trained. The presence of people living in the woodland helps to ensure visitors feel secure, and provides people with an opportunity to ask questions and learn about the work being undertaken.
  • HHW through its staff and facilities can provide vocational training in a range of areas, from those linked to the natural environment itself (conservation, horticulture, permaculture, green woodworking, animal care, bushcraft, landscaping, forestry etc) to more traditional skills such as numeracy, literacy and IT.
  • HHW provides mentoring to young people even once they have left the scheme, and is pro-active in working with parents and carers.
  • The project has delivered a number of social, environmental and economic benefits, as highlighted in a report produced by Forest Research in 2005.


This initiative highlights the importance of addressing social and environmental issues when trying to encourage wider community engagement in natural spaces, and also highlights how a community-based initiative can become financially sustainable in the longer term. The HHW business plan clearly states that grant funding is only to be sought for the acquisition of capital projects or items as a base to generate further income through onsite activities.


O’Brien, L (2004) Hill Holt Woodland Social Enterprise and Community Woodland. Forest Research: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/eliv_hhw_report.pdf/$FILE/eliv_hhw_report.pdf