SMALL armies are set to muster, appropriately enough in a military tent, to prepare to lift a green canopy on the outskirts of Nettlestone.

By now, we have all heard of the Queen’s Green Canopy initiative to mark her platinum jubilee, and it is being helped along — big style — on the Isle of Wight by a family-led project not just to plant trees but to create the myriad habitat found in English woodland.

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It is gardening on a grand scale. And it will vitally link vestigial pockets of trees and ancient hedgerow — all within clear sight of Nettlestone Primary School.

Isle of Wight County Press: Nick Jeffries at the woodland site.

Nick Jeffries at the woodland site.

Nick Jeffries and his wife, Pip, who have family links to the school, are spearheading the ambitious project.

As the pupils grow, they will see flourish what they have helped to create, but not from the school windows just yet. Woods take a while.

The family has embraced two proverbs – the first Greek and the second Chinese: ‘A society grows great when people plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.’

And: ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now’.

The wood developed as a big offshoot of Nick Hayward - the Island’s former high sheriff - and his wife, Nicky’s, retirement from the Seaview Hotel and their desire to preserve and enhance the green buffer between Pondwell, Nettlestone and Seaview.

They retired to a country cottage and were able to buy lots of farmland alongside.

Then there was recent serendipity in the retirement of the tenant farmer who had been renting the land.

Nicky said: “Nick and I have given about 20 acres of farmland which is between us and Park Farm.

“With huge parcels of land in the area, especially Westridge Farm, being concreted over, we all wanted to try to stop the sprawl. So, our son-in-law Nick Jeffries came up with this plan which we are delighted to host and hope the community will embrace.”

Nick has masterminded obtaining 7,500 cell-grown trees with government cash aid and Pippa is looking after the considerable logistical challenge of marshalling volunteers young, and not so, from the tented Woodland HQ. Planting sessions start on Monday, November 22, and will continue most days until December 13.

All are welcome and people can register at by clicking here or by emailing Pippa on:

Pip said: “The red arrows on the map indicate access and there might be some space for parking on Gregory Avenue but if people want more guidance they can message me closer to the time.

“Fuel is the key for any successful mission. If you like to bake and fancy bringing something with you to the HQ, any contributions will be most welcome — but not obligatory.

“Volunteers should check-in to Woodland HQ, shown on the map, as a first port of call, for induction and instructions. Please bring waterproofs and boots. Spare clothes or personal bags can be left at the tent at HQ. Coffee, tea, water and snacks will also be available.”

Her husband has come up with a detailed design which will have oaks at its heart, pointing to the fact that they provide habitat for 2,300 species of fauna alone.

There will be public access to the wood which will have a fifth of its area preserved as important light, open, space and seasonal ponds will feature too.

Scots pines will provide food for the red squirrel population. There will be dazzling autumn colour from field maple and at the fringes, hazel coppice and species including alder, willow, blackthorn and fruit trees.

That is if climate change doesn’t scupper plans. Nick’s biggest fear is drought, so mulch mats will be placed around trees both to conserve moisture in the vulnerable early years and suppress competitor weeds.

As an environmental engineer he has worked all over the world and settled at the Isle of Wight’s Ellen MacArthur Foundation which is doing its best to help save the planet.

He is acutely aware of the need to manage land sustainably, the value of diverse habitats and the important part native woodland plays.

He is also a bit abashed by the name for the wood that has already been bandied in many quarters.

But by the cunning use of an apostrophe Nicks’ Wood could be a named tribute to at least three of the four involved.

Have you got gardening-related queries or news? You can email Richard on