Monday, 21 November 2011

J G Graves Woodland Discovery Centre invites Sheffield community into woodlands

Photos by Joe Bream (

A thousand people were joined by the Lord Mayor Dr Sylvia Dunkley to celebrate the official opening of the J G Graves Woodland Discovery Centre at Ecclesall Woods.

The day was a huge success. Families, dog-walkers, nature-enthusiasts, woodworkers, environment groups and artists came together to celebrate the opening of the Discovery Centre on Sunday 30th October.

The Lord Mayor arrived with her family to help plant a tree in celebration of the official opening. “It’s absolutely stunning”, she said. “The building’s greatest attraction is the way it makes you look out over the woods, it’s going to be very popular with schools and people who want to hold a party or a wedding.”

Children and parents became absorbed in exciting woodland activities; learning how to press apples and make cider, building bug houses, creating seed balls for the birds and experimenting with a range of woodwork activities.

Jasper Prachek's trug baskets
Jasper Prachek, a professional hedgelayer and a Trug basket maker, demonstrated his woodwork skills to children and families. Jasper runs training courses in woodland crafts with the Working Woodlands Trust and he is looking forward to working with the Discovery Centre. “I think it’s marvellous,” he said. Jasper believes that only a small number of people currently appreciate the woodlands within the city and he hopes this number will increase as the Discovery Centre brings more schools and families into the woodlands.

Partnerships protect the woodland

The centre has been built next to the old sawmill, which houses a small cluster of talented wood based businesses. The Sheffield Woodlands Environment Enhancement Project (SWEEP) is also based at the old sawmill. They work with volunteers to improve access in the woodland, as well as creating and maintaining the habitat within the woods. Many others will be working with the Discovery Centre including Friends of Ecclesall Woods, Sheffield’s Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) and independent woodworkers.

Looking out into the woodlands
Sheffield’s RSPB has helped the Discovery Centre by donating birdseeds and feeders as well as bird posters and leaflets. Sue Bradshaw, a local group leader said, “It’s a great location, right in the middle of the woods.” She believes the centre will attract a lot more people into the woodlands and she is pleased it will support the RSPB in encouraging people to look after nature.

Ecclesall Woods covers over 100 hectares of ancient woodland. In 1927 Sheffield Corporation and J. G. Graves bought Ecclesall Woods from Earl Fitzwilliam and gave it to the city in order to protect it from development. The J G Graves Charitable Trust has been the main sponsor of the Discovery Centre. The Lord Mayor believes this is a wonderful example of vision and generosity. “These places only thrive and work because so many partners are involved.” The Discovery Centre has also formed a partnership with Friends of Ecclesall Woods to secure funding from Viridor Credits Environmental Company, Veolia Environmental Trust and Sheffield City Council.

The Lord Mayor reflected that it had been a long journey for those involved. She said that in 2006 it had been a “sad looking site”.  “Someone had the vision to have this area absolutely transformed. The vision was to have a centre that turned the site around and made it look out into the woods and that’s exactly what it has done.”
The Woodland Discovery Centre faces the woods

The Sycamore Suite and Hectors House are available for education sessions, meetings, events, family celebrations or Weddings. For bookings contact Woodland Discovery Centre staff on 0114 2356348 or email

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