Grid Ref. SU446095
Client: Hampshire County Council
Westwood was formerly part of a large estate in the ownership of the Cistercian monastery of Netley Abbey. The site joined the Abbey via four conduits; large banked ditches designed to carry water which fed the fishponds, filled the wells, and 'flushed' the toilets of the Abbey. The remains of these conduits can still be seen through the site today and one is a scheduled ancient monument.
Westwood then went into the management of local farmers who used the site as coppice woodland; cutting hazel stems from the woods each winter to make hurdles and charcoal. By the late 18th century much of Westwood belonged to Mr. Cleverly, who also owned nearby Grange Farm, now the site of Netley's popular Mill House pub.
During the Victorian era houses were erected along the southern edge of the site; Marina View, Hilton House and the now demolished Lake House which took its name from the ornamental lake that stood in its grounds. That lake is now Westwood's main pond and the Bamboo and Greater Periwinkle 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, and was most probably 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 and looking through the undergrowth you can still spot the largely intact bases of this emplacement.
From the end of the 19th century gravel extraction took place until part of the site became an area for refuse disposal. Following the restoration of this landfill Hampshire County Council and Southampton City Council took management of Westwood in 1986 and the ancient woodland and restored grasslands were opened as a public space.
The site is now a flourishing Local Nature Reserve, comprising a rich blend of natural habitats. Ancient woodlands including hazel coppice and oak pasture; streams and ponds; marshes and grassland all provide haven for a diversity of plants and animals. Management at Westwood aims to conserve habitats and enhance wildlife. Woodland areas are coppiced to benefit wildflowers and resident Dormice; shrub clearance maintains the open nature of the pasture woodland; invasive plant species are removed to preserve our native plants; and grazing and hay cutting improves the diversity of the grassland for flowers and invertebrates.
Two days of digging, shovelling and barrowing transformed a quagmire into a user-friendly path at the entrance to the woods. This also prevents the paths becoming wider and destroying the woodland habitat.
Meet at 10am at Weston Shore Car Park on Weston Par. From J8 of the M27 follow the brown tourist signs for Royal Victoria Country Park, as you enter Netley you will go over the railway line and into Station Road. At the end of Station Road turn right into Victoria Road (not left towards the Park). Follow Victoria Road past Netley Abbey on the right and down Abbey Hill to the Shoreline and Weston Par, Weston Shore Car Park is a short way along the road before you get to the tower blocks. Look out for our yellow flags.