Skip Navigation

History of Victory Wood

Victory Wood was purchased by the Woodland Trust in 2004 and consists of 133ha (328 acres) of arable land and 7.6ha (19 acres) of existing woodland, totalling 140.6ha (347 acres). It was purchased with the view of it becoming the flagship site for the Woodland Trust’s Trafalgar Woods project which in 2005 marked the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

The Trust, together with a number of partner organisations, commemorated the Battle of Trafalgar and highlighted the role trees had played, by creating 33 new woods across the UK in 2005. Each bore the name and become a symbol of the English ships which battled against French and Spanish adversaries on 21 October 1805. As the flagship of Nelson’s fleet was HMS Victory, it was fitting to name the project’s flagship site Victory Wood.

(Photo: WTML / Nick Cobbing)

The part played by trees in HMS Victory

Hundreds of people had been part of this momentous battle in which Admiral Lord Nelson lost his life serving on HMS Victory, but trees were also heroes of the battle. Tens of thousands of them, mostly oak, were felled to construct the ships used in Nelson’s fleet.

HMS Victory was constructed at Chatham dockyards using a variety of British native tree species, including hazel, yew, rowan, Scots pine, ash, beech, silver birch, oak, black poplar, elm and alder.

The brushes and brooms were made out of silver birch due to its flexible, cheap and plentiful nature; whereas yew was the wood of choice for the tools used by the ship’s carpenters. The cooks would have served food from caskets of hazel on bowls and plates made of rowan, while Nelson’s bed was probably constructed with a beech frame. 

The gunpowder was stored for safety in boxes made from black poplar with elm lids, and would have been made using ground charcoal produced from alder wood. However, most of the body of this enormous ship was constructed from over 5,000 oak trees, equivalent to 40 hectares (100 acres) of woodland.

Sculpture of Nelson
This depicts Nelson atop a nautical scene and is located beside the car park. It was made from a felled oak planted at the Admiral’s request over 200 years ago.

The Victory footprint
Located on the small hill next to the car park, this full scale footprint of HMS Victory has been marked out using oak posts and newly planted trees to convey a sense of the ship’s scale.

HMS Victory was completed in 1778 and from figurehead to taffrail was over 226ft long, with 27 miles of rigging and four acres of sails. Weighing over 3,500 tonnes, she also had 104 guns and was crewed by 821 men. Since 1921, the ship has resided in Portsmouth for all to see and admire. She still retains her status as a fully commissioned ship in the Royal Navy.

(Photo: WTML / Nick Cobbing)

The Trafalgar battle
Taking the path towards the ridge from the Victory footprint, you’ll pass between eight evergreen oaks. These mark out the positions of eight of the adversary ships at the start of the battle (all we can fit on the site) – see our battle information board beside the Link sculpture for more information.

Link sculpture with panoramic viewfinder
Survey Victory Wood’s stunning location from here, with breath-taking views north across Kent and the Thames Estuary and south towards Blean Woods National Nature Reserve which includes 95 hectares (234 acres) owned by the Woodland Trust.

The Trafalgar Groves
There are 27 one-acre groves of trees, each of them named after a ship of the British fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar and sponsored by individuals and organisations.

Cold War bunker
This was one of 1,563 underground posts built during the Cold War to report nuclear explosions and monitor radioactive fallout in order to give the public the best chance of survival. This bunker was opened in 1966 and decommissioned with all its contents removed in 1976.