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"I feel like we have made his wish come true" - Suffield community woodland is a stepfather's legacy

PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 April 2014 | UPDATED: 12:40 25 April 2014

The 'if not now, when community woodland' in Suffield. Trustees, left to right, Mary Edmonds, Belle Jones and her son Billy (1), Lesley Ash and Sophie the dog at the front. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The 'if not now, when community woodland' in Suffield. Trustees, left to right, Mary Edmonds, Belle Jones and her son Billy (1), Lesley Ash and Sophie the dog at the front. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

A woman whose stepfather died of cancer in 2002 has turned his dream of a community woodland into a reality.

The 'if not now, when community woodland' in Suffield. Trustee Belle Jones and her son Billy (1).
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYThe 'if not now, when community woodland' in Suffield. Trustee Belle Jones and her son Billy (1). PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

David Hood bought the 4.5-acre Suffield field and surrounding farm in 1974 after a career restoring timber-framed buildings in Norwich.

He transformed the farm, north of Aylsham and North Walsham, into a residential complex and planned to tackle the field once the barns were complete –hoping to create an adventure park for adults and plant trees.

But in his early 50s, with a cancer diagnosis and nearing death, Mr Hood had a trust created, architect plans drawn up and asked his friends to become trustees of the land.

Belle Jones, Mr Hood’s stepdaughter of 20 years, said being involved in the project enabled her to maintain a connection with her stepfather, who left most of his land to charity.

The 'if not now, when community woodland' in Suffield. 
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYThe 'if not now, when community woodland' in Suffield. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Mrs Jones, 39, who married her husband Tim at the woodland in 2011, said: “It feels like home there, I feel like we have made his wish come true.

“It has been hard work but it is worth it now when it has all been planted and is looking lovely.”

The team of trustees and helpers has divided the woodland, named If Not Now When, into two halves, with one side a meadow with flora and fauna and the other planted with fruit trees and architectural features collected by Mr Hood.

A free-standing arch, restored and reclaimed from a building in Norwich, marks the entrance to a labyrinth while a pergola, with cast iron columns from Fakenham Maltings is near the back boundary.

Mr Hood’s wife Tchenka Sunderland, who is Mrs Jones’ mother, created the labyrinth and also designed a similar one in the Norwich Cathedral cloisters.

And now, after 15 years of work, the mother-of-one wants to let people know the woodland is open for people to enjoy and raise funds to continue the work.

She said: “It gives me such a sense of satisfaction that people can come to somewhere fun and a little quirky which they can use as they want.

“I feel really happy I have been involved in it. It has been different but all of it has been an absolute joy.”

On May 10, a guide from Sheringham Park will take visitors on a dawn chorus walk and in June there will be a moth night. On October 11, the wood, in partnership with Suffield Village Hall, will hold its first apple day with tours, apple folklore talks and cider café.

Car parking is available at Suffield Village Hall. For more information visit www.ifnotnowwhen.org

Do you have an unusual community project? Email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk

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