It was a showery day but the rain held off while we walked from Keppel's Column accross the grass and down into the wood from the top end. There were two managers because the council in their wisdom have divided the area into two, namely woodland and grassland. Therefore I will also divide my report into two:
1/ GRASSLAND near to Keppel's Column and known as "Admiral's Field".
The area of trees around Keppel's Column was cleared for use by prisoners of war and the culverts installed to prevent waterlogging of the remainder of the woodlands. It is NOT a natural area of grassland.
The grassland manager was pleased that the "wetland" area adjacent to the opening into the woods on the north-eastern corner has spread, there is now a wooden bridge over the path because it is so muddy.
Looking at this, it is the area I took photo's of 2 years ago, showing how the CULVERTS have filled with water and the lack of drainage is preventing the old drainage system from working.
He was adamant that it is a natural area of marshy ground, despite the gravel filled culvert at the base being clearly visible.
The grassland manager pointed to some young oak trees growing on the edge of the field where the wood is naturally spreading back, and said "They'll have to come out."
The grassland manager also pointed out that a small area of heather has increased. We agreed that the seeds for this heather have blown over from the moors above Sheffield. (The Bole Hills are visible from Hoober), but he was upset when I also mentioned that it was due to the clearance of woodlands on the moors for grazing sheep, that they became moorland and heather. He did in fact say he would leave if I continued to use such arguments.
The highland cattle grazing area was chewed flat so there were no orchid plants in leaf. An area close to the man-made swamp had small oak trees growing, about 5-6 feet high and he told me that they would have to come out as they would turn the area back to woodland.
Mowed grass spread in all directions, he told me that this was not affecting the nesting birds and was to encourage the growth. Watch this space for old photos of the field before mowing when it was a mass of wild flowers. As we entered the wood he said the culverts were working but there was only a trickle of water running through, yet the fence area still had streams running over the border and directly into the woods.
2/ WOODLAND known as "Scholes Coppice".
We walked through from the field to the woods and my conversation was more with the woodland manager. The woodland manager told me that the plans for the woods are to remove more of the large beech trees and to encourage the oak to replenish. This is good for the undergrowth and for wildlife. He also informed me that after the clearing of the field area during the fifties, there was a general planting of beech accross the country. As these trees are not natives it is now the plan to encourage the native oak to come back.
This is good for the woodlands but seems to me to be a contradiction of what I had been told about the oak saplings doomed to be pulled out only yards away on the field edge of the woods by the grasslands manager.
We walked through the beeches which have thinned considerably, towards the double-ditch monument. I showed them a culvert outlet which has been dry for many years and I jumped in the swampy bog of leaves in the inner ditch, to show them the water problem.
A path cut by the Lord of Wentworth for his horse, through the inner ditch, has direction signs nearby to discourage walkers and an adjacent path is signed as the right way.
I can see the point in felling trees actually on the monument itself and leaving roots in situ to prevent turbulence from moving the earthwork and I do realise the necessity of this if the earthwork is to continue to exist. At the moment though, while the lower slopes of the woods are so waterlogged it would be a mistake to take out any more mature trees. The larger trees are valuable as they pump away gallons of water which will drown any smaller ones. The water problem from the open Admiral's field does need to be looked at first.
I have included here some pictures of the WOODLAND wetland area which I wanted to show to the grasslands manager:
Wetland area in woods where stream from culverts is supposed to empty. Photograph taken this year 2004, in August after a spell of wet weather.
This is how the same area looked with culverts clear and working.
The grassland manager left us before I could show him the wetland area at the bottom north-east corner of the woods. This area, photographed by Heritage Woods Online and also a few years later by myself, should be filled with water but is completely dry despite the rainy summer we have had this year. It is the outlet for the culverts on the field above. Where there was a trickle of water proudly showed to me by the grassland manager at the top, this is the same streambed but the trickle doesn't make it and is just taken into the ground further up.
The woodland manager said he recognises that there is a problem with the water table in the woods and that the streambed along the rasberry plantation at the bottom south-east, fed by culverts on the south side is now completely dry. This stream used to flow into the same woodland wetland area.
The woodland manager and I parted ways at the bottom end, and I had just left the woods when the rain came back.
The main error that is causing problems is the division of the site into two areas, namely grassland and woodland.
As long as the area which was cleared only half a century ago, continues to be seen as seperate and naturally occurring there can be no resolution of the water problem.
I feel there has been some misunderstanding of where the wetland area should be.
The woodland needs help to grow back onto the open area rather than being contained artificially. This is especially important if the trees growing on the monument are to be felled. By allowing oak trees to naturally take back the woodland that grew on the "field" area, the problem of waterlogging would be solved without the need to empty gravel from the culverts.
I think there is an agenda to build a road accross the field towards Scholes Village and to develop the area at Thorpe Hesley where the stream meandered before culverts on the "field" were filled in. Although the people of Thorpe Hesley stopped a development there recently, I feel that it is the long-term plan.
Photographs that were the reason for this meeting
2nd page of latest photos
3rd page of Latest photos
Link to council pages