About Our Woodland

An example of clough woodland located predominately along the steep slopes of valleys (cloughs) across the South Pennines

Across the South Pennines it is estimated that only 4% of the landscape contains
woodland, and of that area only a quarter is recognised as Ancient Woodland.

Ancient woodland or ‘ancient semi-natural woodland’  is an area of woodland that can be traced using historic maps and historic documentation to have survived in a location since at least the 1600’s.  As a result it is unlikely that the woodland has ever been cleared for the purpose of establishing farmland.  In terms of preservation this can mean that archaeological features relating to the historic management of the woodland as well as features relating to prehistoric to medieval activity can still survive, preserved amongst the trees.

Woodland and Ancient Woodland across the South Pennines
Woodland and Ancient Woodland across the South Pennines

Wood and therefore woodlands have played an important role in human history, not only were they places where humans could hunt for food, but they also provided the raw materials for building and industry.  Whether this was for the construction of houses, the making and provision of household wares (such as chairs, bowels, spoons and bedding material etc) or for the production of charcoal, used in the processes of iron working, woodlands have played an important role throughout history.

Woodlands are rich for their ecology and may support and preserve distinctive animals and plants of the original ‘wild wood’.  In the South Pennines they are relatively small in size and include the locally distinctive oak clough woodland in sheltered upland valleys or ‘cloughs‘. Whilst woodland cover may be low and fragmented, around 50% of woodland is either publicly owned or fully accessible to the public, making this a resource that members of the public can freely access and a unique opportunity to engage groups in the natural environment.

What makes our woodland historically significant?

As well as water, Gibson Mill was once fuelled by the charcoal produced within the woodland of Hardcastle Crags
As well as water, Gibson Mill was once fuelled by the charcoal produced within the woodland of Hardcastle Crags

To walk through an ancient wood is to tread in the footsteps of the ghosts who once lived there. Learn to read the woodland and you can begin to uncover a story of woodland heritage. Reading these landscapes can take you back thousands of years.

Woods are recorded in place names even if the wood is no longer there. For example, a spring wood might indicate a wood that is coppiced.

Ancient woods are part of a greater story of landscape. Woodland can help us reconstruct the local landscape and its unique history. Woods provided the building products for initial settlement. Charcoal makers created the fuel that was the origin of the Industrial Revolution. If you look carefully in our woods you will find features ancient and modern, from wood banks to ditches, to trackways, charcoal hearths, Q-pits, bell-pits, quarries and building platforms.

We want to find out the stories of its people and the communities that lived next to our woodland. New technology will help us look at woodlands in a new way. New technology is now available to groups and individuals that offer the potential to discover new features. For example, elsewhere entire enclosures or Romano- British field systems have been uncovered using satellite imagery. The University of Bradford Archaeological Sciences.