Ostler’s Plantation | Heritage Open Days

What remains hidden amongst the trees? The History of Ostler's Plantation.

Updated 9th September 2020

Ostler’s Plantation is now a quiet woodland, in which visitors can enjoy leisurely walks and cycling amongst the trees and heather. But it has a much more dramatic past, which includes being home to the famous ‘Dambusters’ squadron.

Planted in the 19th Century, the Plantation is named after a former owner, William Ostler. Purchased by the Forestry Commission in the late 1940s following the Second World War, it is now managed for timber crop, with consideration to wildlife and recreational use.

Many of the current paths and rides are concrete which are remains from the former airfield. To the south western corner of the wood, lie four circular areas of hard standing. These were the aircraft dispersal bays, and the iron loops set into the concrete were used to tie the aircraft when winds were strong. You can still see flying aircraft from the plantation today, on occasion the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with the last flying Lancaster and a Spitfire and Hurricane. Planes that the Plantation would have been home to during the Second World War.

Dispersal bay sited at Ostlers Plantation

These concrete bays have become overgrown, particularly with Piri Piri Burr, an invasive species brought over with New Zealand airmen during the war. In recent years we have been working to control this species, including clearing the dispersal bays and removing re-growth, much of which, has been hand weeded by hard working volunteers.

RAF Woodhall Spa which included Ostler’s Plantation was opened in 1942. It became home to the Dambusters’ squadron the following year. The bomb stores used to re-arm the planes were found to the west of the site, the concrete bases and ramps of a couple can still be found well hidden among the trees. On arrival, bombs were rolled gently down these ramps into the open store. The loops found along one of the outer sides are thought to have either been used for securing the trolley’s bombs by which bombs were collected or to cover the bombs with camouflage sheets.

Historic Bomb Ramp at Ostler's Plantation

Bombs were taken from these stores to the fusing buildings. Just the outer brick ends and part of the earth blast walls remain today to the South west of the wood. But this area of the site remains important, with the broken up concrete bases now providing a hibernacula for reptile species, and the remaining earth walls offering great raised ‘sunning’ areas for them on summer mornings.

The incendiary stores can be found in the centre of the site, where they continue to be utilized today. One as a store for the local archery group who use the site to practice and run events. The other is now home to a bat roost, with six species now recorded in the wood by the local bat group.

Historic Incendiary Hut at Ostler's Plantation

The site today is a mix of conifer plantation, most interestingly the compartment planted 4/5 years ago includes monkey puzzle trees, as the Forestry Commission continue to research and test the potential trees for the future. With many of the original trees now mature there is a programme to remove these for timber and replacing them with new young trees, which are all still planted by hand. Alongside the trees are heathland strips, which are compactable with the neighbouring habitats of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, as well as providing habitats for reptiles and many insects, increasing the biodiversity of the site.

A heathland strip at Ostler's Plantation

There is a car park to the north of the wood, take a look around the web page for further information about the site.