Westwood Woodland Park Local Nature Reserve

Ancient woodland with stream-side walks, rolling grassland and hidden history

jack go to bed at noon

About the site

Westwood is an enchanting blend of ancient woodlands and rolling grasslands covering 150 acres. Take a stroll along one of the many paths and enjoy fresh air, natural delights and a surprising history.

History at Westwood

The tranquil site you see today hides a fascinating history of human activity. It was once part of a large estate in the ownership of the Cistercian monastery of Netley Abbey. The site joined the Abbey via four conduits. Conduits are large banked ditches designed to carry water. These fed the fishponds, filled the wells, and ‘flushed’ the toilets of the Abbey. 

Westwood was later managed by local farmers who used the site as coppice woodland. They cut hazel stems from the woods each winter to make hurdles and charcoal. 

During the Victorian era houses were built along the southern edge of the site. These included Hilton House and the now demolished Lake House, which took its name from the ornamental lake that stood in its grounds. The lake is now Westwood’s main pond and the Bamboo plants that surround it date back to the Victorian period. Until the Second World War the rest of the woodland was managed by a gamekeeper on behalf of the Chamberlayne estate. It was most likely used for shooting. 

When the war reached Britain the spitfire factory at Woolston needed protection from enemy bombing and Westwood was an ideal site for an artillery emplacement. The natural cover of the woodland edge was perfect for concealing this Z-battery. The concrete bases still remain today, hidden amongst the undergrowth.

From the end of the 19th century gravel extraction took place until part of the site became an area for refuse disposal. Hampshire County Council and Southampton City Council took over its management following restoration in 1986 . Then the ancient woodland and restored grasslands become public spaces.

Westwood is a rich blend of natural habitats that provide a haven for many plants and animals. There are ancient woodlands, including hazel coppice and oak pasture, as well as streams, ponds, marshes and grassland. 

Plants and animals

Rare native plants still thrive in Westwood. Bluebells carpet the woodlands in spring, while the grasslands are home to cowslips, yellow bartsia and toothed medick.

The grasslands support many species of bird. Barn owls hunt through the twilight hours and skylarks, linnets and meadow pipits have all been seen breeding in the grasses. 

Hazel dormice are resident in Westwood’s coppice woodland.

Several rare beetles live in Westwood’s Bluebell Woods. They all appear in the ‘Red Book’ of Britain’s most threatened invertebrate species.

Contact us

South Area Office, Ranger Depot, Pylands Lane, Southampton SO31 1BH

Phone 023 8040 2534