David Williams – marking 42 extraordinary years

The Royal Forestry Society has marked the retirement as honorary warden of an extraordinary forester, David Williams.

By Wendy Necar · October 20, 2021

David has cared for our unique Charles Ackers Redwood Grove and Naylor Pinetum – the largest and oldest stand of coast redwoods in Europe – for 42 years.

During his time in charge, the coast redwoods have flourished. Countless groups from the UK and abroad have benefited from David’s guided tours explaining their history, their management and their contribution to our forestry knowledge.

The first redwoods to have been planted were the 33 trees that make up the Old Grove. They were planted in 1857 by the rural innovator John Naylor who used the results of both Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions to create a famed estate.

In 1930 Charles Ackers purchased the estate and planted a further six and a half hectares of mostly coast redwoods. In 1958 he gave an area including all of the redwoods to the RFS. Charles Ackers decreed that the Old Grove would not be thinned, and under David’s care those trees have grown venerable and Cathedral like.

During his time as honorary warden though David has thinned the larger part of the woodland a number of times. The tallest of these younger plantings are now around 87 years old and nearly 60 metres in height. That means they are roughly half the height of the world’s tallest tree, also a coast redwood, estimated to be 400 to 500 years.

As former RFS President Sir Jack Whitaker said of David: “I became an admirer of his passion for the redwoods, and his simple directness, his kindness, his lack of side.  But he is more than just that – he has been a huge and loyal supporter of the RFS for decades, and like many foresters I felt that his heart beats to a longer rhythm.”

RFS Chief Executive Christopher Williams added: “It was a privilege for everyone present to spend some time with David to mark his achievements as honorary warden of the wonderous redwood grove.  David shared his passion for forestry, and connected us all with his own journey as warden, through his humour and his stories.  I was pleased but not surprised, that so many people came to thank and recognise David for his remarkable contribution to the work of the Society.”

The RFS remains in contact touch with Naylor’s descendants, three daughters whose mother was the last Naylor to spend the first ten years of her life in Leighton Hall. Charles Ackers’ daughters Torill Freeman and Tiggy Lessner are regular visitors.

Regular thinnings have brought income, and resulted in a high quality stand, which led to accreditation as a Registered Seed Stand.

David Gwillam from Prees Heath Forest Nurseries presented David Williams with a dawn redwood and a Japanese cornelian cherry to mark his 42 years.

The baton of honorary warden has now passed to Eve Over.