Before the 1914-18 War the Plymouth Great Wood was a private woodland, owned by the Earl of Plymouth. During the war, in order to obtain supplies of timber, the government requisitioned the wood and most of the mature trees were felled. Fences were also removed, meaning that the public gained access. After the war the land was returned but the Earl decided not to replant the ground or to restore the fences, and in 1922 he offered to give it to the Cardiff Council as a public open space and pleasure ground.
The Council meeting of October 9th 1922 heard that the area that Lord Plymouth proposed to give was a little over 42 acres. Approximately 10 acres at the western end was to be retained by the Plymouth Estate. The terms of the gift required the Council to erect an unclimbable iron fence along the boundary, and to erect no buildings other than those needed for the upkeep of the wood, so that the wood was to be left, as far as practicable, in its present state. This work was put in progress immediately, although the formal change of ownership did not take place until Janurary 1923. Expenditure of £1,000 was approved in October 1922 for erecting the unclimbable fence, and improving pathways, clearing rides, trimming trees, and providing rustic seats. The formal opening ceremony was on May 1st 1923, performed by Lord Plymouth (the son of the Earl responsible for the gift, who had died in March). The name Plymouth Great Wood was adopted at this time, the land having previously been known simply as the Great Wood. Photographs of the ceremony appeared in the following day's Western Mail.
Representatives of the Cardiff Naturalists' Society urged the Parks Committee to retain the wood "in its state of natural beauty...taking all necessary steps for the preservation of the wild flowers and birds therein."
Access was via an ancient public right-of-way running from Ely along the river bank to St. Fagans, and crossing the lower part of the woodland. In 1926 a new entrance was made at the highest point of the wood, the south-west corner, for the convenience of residents of the Ely housing estate.
A rustic shelter was erected in the winter of 1928-29, on a knoll in a central clearing giving a panoramic view. It was an exact replica of a summerhouse at Hewell Grange in Worcestershire, the Earl of Plymouth's family home. This was recorded in Parks Department inventories in the 1940s, but has since been demolished.
In 1930 Plymouth Great Wood was said to be "much appreciated as a picnic ground and rendezvous for those who desire to ramble where nature has not been altered by the hand of man."
The Parks Department Inventory of Parks Buildings and Equipment, compiled for insurance purposes in April 1938, included the following information for Plymouth Great Wood:
At a later date the woodland was leased to the Forestry Commission. The Council agreed in June 1985 to accept the surrender of the lease.
Sources of Information
In general, the information in this section is taken from A. A. Pettigrew. The Public Parks and Recreation Grounds of Cardiff. Volume 5, Chapter on Plymouth Great Wood
Other sources are: