A project that sums up the phrase “power to the people” is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month.

Back in 1984, Pits Wood in Copford was aptly-named.

While it had been a popular spot before and during the Second World War – with its own secret hideout constructed for resistance fighters - it had been in steady decline since then under remote management.

By the mid-80s it was overgrown and plagued with flytippers and motorbike scramblers – until Copford with Easthorpe Parish Council stepped in.

Members bought the 10-acre former gravel pit for a nominal sum, and passed ownership to residents of the two villages, plus anyone who lived within a one-mile radius.

A trust was then formed to renovate the land - and volunteers set to work.

Long-term trust member Ronessa Knock said: “A lot had to be done because it was so overgrown.

“We had to clear paths and ponds and fell lots of trees which were dangerous.

“Lots more were also planted.”

Mrs Knock said that in the 25 years which have followed, Pits Wood has become a firm feature of Copford life.

“Many who are now in their 20s remember planting the tall grove of silver birch when they were children at Copford Primary School,” she said.

“The interesting thing is that everyone uses the wood for different things – dog walkers, children on bikes, people on picnics.

“It means that everyone has a different view of the wood.”

And Mrs Knock hopes that many of the wood’s regular users will take part in the trust's 25th anniversary celebrations.

To mark the occasion, professional artist Clare Birks, who grew up in Copford, has begun creating a sculpture trail through the wood.

Families and groups like the Brownies and the Horticultural Society will help her make installations from natural materials such as hazel branches, logs and gravel.

Mrs Knock said: “The work can be themed around the history of the wood, myths and fables, or responses to visual triggers such as mossy trunks and twisted trees – this is for the participants to decide.

“Since March whole estates of miniature pixie houses and some grandiose family dens have been created.”

The celebration has been funded by Essex County Council's Arts in Essex Small Grants Scheme and its Grassroots Grants, as well as Colchester Community Arts Fund.


The trust's celebrations continue all this month.

On Saturday and Sunday, April 18 and 19, families from Copford and Easthorpe are invited to make dens and pixie houses from 10am to 1pm.

The Copford Brownies will also be going along on the Saturday.

An artists' session takes place on Wednesday, April 21 from 10am to 1pm, while the Copford Parent and Toddler group will be having fun in the wood from 10.15am to 12.15pm on Friday, May 1.

The anniversary activities will culminate with a grand celebration in Copford Village Hall on Sunday, May 3 from 10am to 4pm.

If you would like to take part in any of the events, meet at the village hall at the start time.