Friday, 27 November 2009
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Likely Locations - The Renowned countryside historian Oliver Rackham makes a distinction between 'Planned countryside' and 'Ancient countryside'. The former, typified by much of the Midlands, consists of regular grids of rectangular fields with straight roads and spinneys of woodland, largely of recent origin. This is the landscape bequeathed us by the Enclosure Acts.
Ancient countryside though, typical of South and South-east England, is characterised by intricate paths and lanes, thick hedges, irregular boundaries and despite its proximity to London, more ancient woodland than can be found anywhere else in the country. Intermediate between these two, is the uplands, which includes Devon & Cornwall. Here you are more likely to see ancient woodlands in narrow river valleys or on steep slopes on the edge of parish boundaries. National Trust woods on Dartmoor are perfectly described in this context.
Evidence - Old maps, deeds and charters are a wealth of information. The first edition OS maps of 1858-1876, of 6 inches to 1 mile are often described as the masterpieces of British mapping, with the English landscape picked out in studied detail. For those who wish to pursue the subject sources of information for the study of ancient woodland are many, works by Oliver Rackham are especially recommended.
Much can be gleaned though from modern maps and it is soon possible to study a map and distinguish ancient woodlands from those of more recent origin. If you have a map to hand, especially if its 1:25000 scale, dig it out and have a look.
- Shape - recently planted woods are likely to have straight edges, whilst older woods tend to have irregular boundaries.
- Study Contours - Is the wood on a steep slope or in a valley? If it is, it could be ancient.
- Is there water? - A stream or river running through a wood is a common feature of an ancient wood.
- Look at lines - Look at the pattern of thin black lines denoting walls and other boundaries. These reflect the enclosure history of the landscape. If the boundaries of the wood do not fit into the pattern, its likely to be ancient.
- What's nearby - Is heathland, 'waste' or common land adjacent? Does the wood mark a parish boundary (marked as a line of black dots on OS maps at 1:25000 scale)? If these can be found a wood is likely to be ancient.
- Names - Names can be a big clue, reflecting names of nearby settlements or incorporating old words for woods such as hanger, lea or grove, which are largely of Saxon origin. Ancient woods tend to be called wood, coppice or copse. Secondary woods might be a covert, plantation or possess no name. Local place names also help, those ending in -ley/-leigh or -hurst suggest an inhabited clearing surrounded by woodland and -feld could be an open space within sight of woodland.
These are broad outlines only, obviously there is more to it, but as a simple exercise, if you have a 1:25000 scale map of Dartmoor, open it up and locate Ashburton and Buckfastleigh (note the -leigh) in the south east of Dartmoor. Look at the woodland that the River Dart snakes through. If you can, locate The National Trust woods of Holne Woods and Hembury Woods. Do you see how irregular the boundaries are, how the contours indicate how steep they are (especially Holne) and that both woods mark out parish boundaries.
Names are a fascinating subject. Holne Woods reflects the parish to which it belongs and derives from an old English word for Holly, Holm, Hollen, thus Holly Woods.
Hembury Woods is adjacent to Buckfast and Buckfastleigh. 'Buckfast' means 'stronghold' - a place where deer and buck were held, always in woodland and the '-leigh' indicates the inhabited clearing surrounded by woodland. Co-incidentally, Hembury can be roughly translated as 'High-castle', in relation to the Hillfort found here. So from Holly Woods and High Castle Woods, we arrive back to the present and the end of this blog, but perhaps spend a moment or two looking at other woods and guessing which may be ancient and which are very obviously modern plantations.
In the next blog, we will see how the wood itself gives us all the clues we need to establish if it is of ancient origin or not.
One of eight winners, England’s last castle took home a highly-sought after Green Energy Award for its biomass boiler, in the category of ‘Best Renewable Energy Scheme’.
The new biomass boiler has reduced the Castle's annual carbon emissions by 150 tonnes and generated 1,000,000 kilowatt hours of renewable heat per year. It is easily accessible to 125,000+ visitors a year, and is included in visitor tours that further promote renewable energy. The fuel for the installation is supplied by a local woodchip supplier, with 50 per cent coming from the estate itself with 100 per cent by June 2010. Many members of the local community, other businesses and charities have also visited Drogo to have a look at the new boiler to see if our success can be replicated elsewhere.
The winners were chosen from a high-quality shortlist of entrants from across the region by an independent panel of judges who have expert knowledge in sustainable energy.
David Bailey, Castle Drogo Property Manager said: “We are thrilled at receiving this award; it’s a real credit to everyone who has been involved on this project. Our aim is to be free from fossil fuels by 2016 through using hydro and solar power and by reducing our energy requirements. Our new boiler has already reduced our fossil fuel needs by 50 percent. We not only want to be the last castle built in England but also the greenest!”
Monday, 23 November 2009
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
Tree number 292- a fine Oak and a good example of the sort of trees in the park.