The Millennium Forest

Haven’t you grown…

The world was not left to us by our parents, it was lent to us by our children.
African proverb


St Helena aims to recreate the ‘Great Wood’ - a natural forest destroyed in the 17th Century‍‍

Location Map milleniumforest

Below: In the beginning…DeclineRe-birthAnniversariesActivity ReportsYour contribution?Read More

SEE ALSO: The Great Wood WallLongwood

Millennium Forest logo

Approximate extent of the Great Wood
Approximate extent of the Great Wood

The Millennium Forest is a project in the North-Eastern corner of St Helena to recreate the Great Wood that existed before colonisation. In 2016 it was estimated to contain more than 10,000 trees.

In the beginning…

St Helena was born around fourteen million years ago, as a result of volcanic activity. Thereafter, for 99.997% of its life, the island was left to its own devices. Plants, wind blown from Africa, colonised the island, and bred and changed, giving the island a rich and varied flora, much of it endemic. The Great Wood was the largest expanse of forest on St Helena and, as such, was home to an unknown number of plants, insects and birds. Its total extent seems to be lost to history but it is likely it covered an area of at around 21Km². It was located in the north-east of the island, in the area now occupied by Deadwood and Longwood, stretching perhaps as far east as Prosperous Bay Plain (the Airport site).


Mankind did not even know of St Helena’s existence until the Portuguese discovered it in 1502. They did not establish any permanent settlements but they did release pigs, goats (and, unintentionally but inevitably, rats) onto the island, thus disrupting an ecology that had developed over millions of years. The British colonised it in 1659, immediately creating a permanent settlement. In the process of colonisation the Great Wood was entirely destroyed as settlers cut down the trees for firewood, used the bark for tanning thereby unnecessarily killing the trees, and allowed goats and other introduced animals to graze on the saplings.

Governor John Roberts complained:

In 1716 a ground plan of the wood was inserted in the Records, and it is reported:

In the early 1700s attempts were made to enclose the remainder of the forest - the ‘Great Wood Wall’ - but this did not stop the destruction. The site of the Great Wood became semi-desert. In the summer months particularly, the hot south westerly winds sucked all the moisture from the ground, turning the soil to sand. Soil erosion was (and still is) a big problem on this windward side of the island, with some ecologists estimating that 90% of the fertile soil that was once present has been lost due to erosion.


Millennium Forest sign

In the late 1990s it was decided that the island would embark upon an historic reforestation project at the site of the Great Wood. This would need to continue for decades if most of the area previously occupied by the Great Wood was again to become an established forest. The area designated for reforestation was named The Millennium Forest. The project was launched in 2000 with tremendous commitment from the Island community. The first official Gumwood Tree was planted on 4th August 2000 by Governor Hollamby dedicated to HRH Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (the date being her 100th birthday). Official public planting began on 6th August and virtually every resident paid for a tree and many of them planted their trees themselves. By the beginning of December 2000 about 3,000 trees were planted, rising to nearly 4,000 by the end of the month. A car park was laid out and a gatehouse built. The photograph (below) shows the Millennium Forest in 2005. By 2012, about 35 hectares had been planted with 10,000 trees. The total land area designated for reforestation has been extended in the course of the last thirteen years and is currently 250 hectares and the reforestation work now in hand is the toughest phase of the entire cycle of events.

The project currently supports some forestry workers who are constantly involved with watering and feeding trees as well as planting new areas. They have to combat problems caused by infestation and invasive growth of alien species which can overrun saplings. The failure rate in newly planted areas can be high and re-planting is another sizeable aspect of the workload. There are now in excess of 6,000 Gumwood Trees growing in the Millennium Forest. An estimated 55,000 further plantings are required to cover the entire area designated for forest.

Here are some photographs to illustrate the growth of the Forest:

You can experience (sort-of) a stroll through the Millennium Forest here:


15 Years, 2015

Millennium Forest Birthday Party Celebration

Millennium Forest 15th cake

It is fifteen years since the Millennium Forest was planted and 35 years since the first Ebony was re-discovered on the 11th November. Therefore it was thought fitting to hold a Millennium Forest Birthday Party on the nearest weekend to the latter which falls on Sunday 15th November 2015. Refreshments and a Birthday Cake were provided along with activities to say thank you to an array of people that have helped contribute to the success of the Community Forest Project and also to encourage people to visit if they have not done so already.

Activities included a Treasure Hunt, Guided Tours, Flax Weaving and Tree Planting. Eighty three plants including Gumwood were planted on the day helping to extend the forest. A Birthday Cake wish box was sent around with a slice of cake so participants could write a wish for the forest and what they would like to see in the next fifteen years. The event was well attended and it was good to see everyone enjoying themselves.{d}

People were asked to submit a wish for the forest, for the next 15 years. Here are some of the contributions:

20 Years, 2020

20 years badge

The first even took place on Saturday 25th Jaunary at the forest - a scavenger hunt.

Watch this space for details of other planned events as they emerge or see the Millennium Forest Facebook™ page.

Activity Reports

Joel Peters watering in his dedication plant
Joel Peters watering in his dedication plant
Harford School Millennium Forst walk

Saint Helena Child Plants the Future

As part of Bicentenary Week, St Helena National Trust prepared for two hundred gumwoods to be available for planting in Area D of the Millennium Forest. The target was to get them all planted within the week but on Thursday 15th October 2015 this target was blown out of the water with the help of the Navy, the French Delegation, tourists and last but not least Saints. Two hundred and one gumwoods were planted in two hours. A total of £141.00 was also kindly donated to dedicate trees and receive certificates of planting. A special thank you to all those that participated and supported this venture and made it an astounding success. We would like to make a special mention to Bronwyn and David Street who arrived early and excavated a number of holes in readiness for the plant off. They belong to a conservation group who remove invasive species and plant endemics in their homeland of Australia.

Dedicated staff and volunteers in the SHNT harvest seed, plant and bring on a number of endemics for planting all year around in an effort to turn the tide against invasive species. This has been kindly funded by the Darwin Initiative as part of the Community Forest Project. Our work is supported by the Darwin Initiative as part of the Community Forest Project. It’s never too late to plant a tree. The Millennium Forest Nursery produces a number of different endemic plants that members of the public can dedicate to a loved one. For example this could be in memory of a relative/friend that has passed on or the birth of a child. For further information call Jessi on (+290) 22190.{e}

Harford walk through the Millennium Forest

Harford School Millennium Forst walk

On Friday 15th May 2013 children from Harford Primary School took part in a sponsored outdoor adventure at the Millennium Forest. The St Helena National Trust’s Forest School Officer Martina Peters and Invertebrate Education Officer Liza Fowler organised the occasion in collaboration with the school to create an event that would generate funds and also provide curriculum-based environmental education for the pupils.

With interactive activities it was more than just a walk, for at numerous stages along the trail were stations that included a sundial, pitfall traps, a memory game, touchy feely boxes and the potting-up of endemic plants.

Learning about invertebrates was a key theme among the activities says Liza, the children got to see how we catch bugs and saw what is living within the Forest. Martina added through these activities the forest is brought even more to life and they get to see what lives here and interacts with the Gumwoods. Although a relatively short trail it was an ideal location for the event as the ground is pretty level, the Gumwoods are tall and the developing canopy enables them to experience what it is like to walk through endemic woodland, hopefully inspiring them for the future.

Head Teacher Carlene Young said The children thoroughly enjoyed themselves while learning more about our local environment and the endemics on island… from outside the classroom. Activities like this are among the many different approaches that the St Helena National Trust’s Darwin Initiative funded ‘Bugs on the Brink’ project is aiming to implement as part of its educational outreach. Events like this often work in collaboration with the St Helena National Trust’s Forest Schools Project which works to encourage community involvement with nature conservation on the island.{f}

Your contribution?

Anyone can plant a tree in the Millennium Forest. You don’t even need to visit{3}! For more details contact the St Helena National Trust.

The Millennium Forest relies heavily on voluntary tree sponsorship and donations. Most sponsored trees are to the memory of loved ones; mark an anniversary or special event. Personalised plaques and benches can be arranged by the St Helena National Trust on request. Through making a sponsorship or donation you will be helping the environment and save a threatened endemic species from becoming extinct, including having a lasting reminder of that special memory{c}.

Read More

Below: Millennium Forests on Facebook™WikipediaArticle: St Helena reforestation wins conservation award

Millennium Forests on Facebook™

The St Helena National Trust has set up a Facebook™ Page for the Millennium Forest at www.facebook.com/pg/communityforests.

The Wikipedia

You can read more on the Wikipedia about the flora of St Helena.

Article: St Helena reforestation wins conservation award

From www.wildlifeextra.com, April 2011{4}

WILD BEAUTY: St Helena. Picture: Tara Pelembe
WILD BEAUTY: St Helena. Picture: Tara Pelembe

Winner of Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies Nature Conservation Award is announced.

A forest restoration project on one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world has just won a major UK conservation award. But this is no ordinary forest and no ordinary island - for the trees are endangered and are found nowhere else in the world and the island is St Helena, an Overseas Territory of the UK.

Flying the flag for the International Year of Forests, the St Helena Millennium Forest Project will be presented with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee’s Blue Turtle Award{5} for nature conservation in the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

The eastern half of St Helena was once covered with a huge swathe of native forest known as the Great Wood. During the 1700s most of the native trees had succumbed to the combined effects of felling for timber by settlers, browsing by goats and rooting by pigs; and by the 20th century only a few of the native gumwood trees survived. Gumwoods are found nowhere else in the world, and like other trees endemic to St Helena, are all threatened with extinction. At the initiative of the local community, the St Helena Millennium Forest project was launched with the goal of reinstating native forest on degraded wasteland. More than 250 hectares of land has been set aside for restoration and, since 2002, over 10,000 gumwood trees have been planted.

JNCC’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies Programme Manager Tony Weighell, one of the award’s judges, said: I want to congratulate all involved in the St Helena Millennium Forest Project. This is exactly the sort of innovative, community-based initiative that should be encouraged. St Helena provides important lessons for our management of forests globally - it’s better to protect and conserve our forests now than to attempt to restore them later.

UNIQUE BIODIVERSITY: The newly planted millennium wood on St Helena.
UNIQUE BIODIVERSITY: The newly planted millennium wood on St Helena

Defra is playing an increasingly important role in supporting biodiversity in the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. Presenting the award on behalf of JNCC, Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: Our Overseas Territories are a precious repository of unique biodiversity and often serve as home to some of the world’s most vulnerable species. Recent events in the South Atlantic have shown the fragility of such habitats and our duty to protect them has never been clearer. The St Helena Millennium Forest Project is an excellent example of how a community can come together for the sake of a better environment and a greener future. I’m delighted to see the excellent efforts getting well-deserved credit.

Rebecca Cairns-Wicks, president of the St Helena National Trust said: The Millennium Forest is a genuine community initiative, with hundreds of our islanders already planting endemic trees. Visitors and overseas supporters are also able to donate a tree, leaving a personal legacy to this story of ecological recovery. The St Helena National Trust has a long-term vision and commitment to the project which will expand and improve the ecological diversification of the forest and develop the site as a leading environmental tourism attraction.

{a} Sainte Hélène Voyage{b} Jack & Carolyn Long{c} St Helena National Trust{d} St Helena National Trust, Published in the St Helena newspapers November 2015{4}{e} St Helena Independent, 23rd October 2015{4}{f} St Helena Independent, 22nd May 2015{4}

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{1} Please first read this warning.{2} We want to know exactly what this contributor was smoking when s/he came up with that one!{3} Though we recommend you do!{4} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.{5} The Blue Turtle Award is given annually by The JNCC, a ;statutory adviser to UK Government and devolved administrations.

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