Please Note: This website is out of date. The Steward Community Woodland sustainable living project ended in 2018 for legal and planning permission reasons. The contents have been left here as a historical archive.

A history of the woodland

There was a house at the bottom of the land which was, acording to the census, last occupied in 1871. Some people say it may have been destroyed by fire. Stone steps and stone gate posts with iron fittings can be seen as you climb the main track. There is also an area with tall stone walls that may be the ruins of the house.

Until the 1920's it appears that the land was mostly open fields with some areas of coppice woodland. The dry stone wall field boundaries can still be seen amongst the trees. At some point there may have been a mine on the land and somewhere there are apparently some old mine works.

From the 1920's, the land was planted up by the Dartington Trust (run by the Elmhurst family). The Elmhursts were pioneers in foresty and the hoped to reinvigorate the rural economy by planting fast growing plantations of exotic conifers. The 'growing area' and Agricultural Shed were used as a tree nursery for stocking other conifer plantations that they and others were planting all over Dartmoor.

The tree nursery employed many people from Moretonhampstead until the late fifties. It was also around that time that the railway line was closed down. We have found a quite a few people in town who remember working at the nursery including one who used to climb the conifers to get the cones - he was just 14 years old at the time.

In 1966, the Dartington Trust handed the management of all their woods, including Steward Wood, over to Fountain Forestry. At some point it got sold to a pension fund before it was purchased by Fountain Forestry. They put the woodland up for sale in the early 90's. Although various people and organisations had shown an interest, including the National Park Authority, it had been on the market for at least five years before we purchased it at the end of 1999.

Last updated: 2009-04-20

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