Early History - Where did the idea come from?

The origins of the Olgar Trust can be traced back to a land fund held by an organisation called the Odinshof. The Olgar Trust started out as the Odinshof Land Guardians, set up to purchase some woodland partially in response to the amount of 'private' land that restricted public access. The Odinshof, a Northern Tradition Pagan group which had existed in one guise or other since the early 1980's, celebrated rituals, in various parts of the country, at the full moons, the Solstices and Equinox's in public woods, usually owned or controlled by local authorities.

The idea to purchase our own land originally came about really so that Odinshof members and friends could celebrate rites, without interference and be free to manage the land as supporters believed it should; to be able to camp out, light fires and cook, and just be in control of any arising situation and own destiny. The fund started almost accidentally when in 1991 two younger members from New Mills, Derbyshire visited the group that worked out of North Cray , Kent. A competition to 'soak' one of the group, called 'Weasel,' for a small charge was thought up so that money could be donated for something specific. That 'something specific' became the embryonic Odinshof land fund.

From this, other supporters who couldn't attend the Kent 'Soak the Weasel' started saving five pence pieces towards the new woodland venture. With this money being saved, and some invested into shares of ethical companies over a number of years, a new group was formed in 1998 called the Olgar Trust (Odinshof Land Guardians.) This was mainly in response to the Charity Commission, writing to say that they did not believe the Odinshof should have the charitable status that had been granted some years earlier. It was suspected that they did not like the Pagan based constitution that we had. Rather then battle out what could have been quite a costly and time consuming issue, the new group submitted a revised constitution with an environmental theme under the name of the Olgar Trust, so that the tax advantages were not lost. The Charity Commission seemed to find this option acceptable, so plans were quickly drawn up to launch the new organisation.

Recent History - The First Woodland Purchase.

The Olgar Trust came into being on 24th June, 1998 as an organisation dedicated to environmental issues such as preserving woodlands in a semi natural state. After exactly nine months of active fundraising, the Olgar Trust gained charity status. In the early days fund raising was slow. No one ever gave anything nearing £200. Most of the money was saved by supporters setting up £10 per month Standing Orders or saving 5p pieces in jars at their places of work. Remarkably, this ad hoc way of saving proved successful and during 2000 Trustees were able to look at woods in Kent , Buckinghamshire and Sussex .

The first suitable woods were sold by the owners before the 'Trust could put in a bit. However, what was to prove disastrous for farmers gave the Trustees a break. As 'Foot and Mouth' disease swept across the country in 2001 people began holding back in their purchases of woodland. This was for practical reasons; people just couldn't get on to the land. A golden opportunity came up in February, 2001 when a family group put what they called Venus Wood on the market. Funds at that time were 25,000 but the wood was offered at 15,000. Two Trustees visited the site and immediately liked it. Just as the 'Trust formally agreed to buy the wood the Government put a restriction on the public walking over open land near farms. There was limited access in June, 2001 and a year later all supporters were able to visit Eley Grove for themselves.