Moss Valley learning walk (30th May 2019)

Thursday 30th May 2019: a Chris Turk ‘learning’ walk.
Starting from the Coal Aston village hall car park, 32 walkers, many of whom were visitors to the group. We hope we made you all welcome, and hope you will join us as members…
We went down to the Moss Valley. A lovely walk, easy pace, with so much information given to us by Chris: meanings of some of the names, the work of the Woodland Trust, the difference between ‘wood’, ‘woods’ and ‘plantation’.

Here are Chris’s notes:
Win = broom or birch (Wineacre Wood)
Spring = Coppice – Cookspring Wood
Carr = wetland
Owler = Alder – Owler Carr
Furze = gorse
Hollin = holly – rich winter food for cattle, sheep and deer. Usually pollarded or coppiced
Hagg = enclosure
Wood – pre 1700
Plantation – post 1700
Multiple “Woods” together (eg Ecclesall Woods) suggests Enclosure Act 1200 giving parcels of land to Norman lords. Domesday book

Bell pits for coal
Q pits for “White coal” – dried wood cooler than charcoal, for lead and lime
Flat hearths for charcoal
Ironstone/ metal slag from smelting
Major earth-fast stones
Mine adits horizontal into hillside
Criss crossed with tracks and Victorian drainage channels
NB Tree age must be less than the earthworks underneath!

Indicator Species
Big trees on boundary (inner ones used up!)
Laid hedges
Ancient coppice stools/ groups of trees in a ring from one base
Bluebell (won’t cross gaps)
Creeping soft grass
Black Briony (in hedgerows)
Hazel and Blackthorn
Hedge woundwort
Whych Elm
Wood Anemone
Yellow Archangel
Dogs mercury in acid soil (it is prolific in lime)
Herb Paris

Charcoal making was a closed guild, same process till 1800s
Eg Ecclesall Woods used up, covered in charcoal hearth, now acid, species poor. Richer ring around the edge. Soil was all dug up to bank fires
Holly was fermented in pits to make bird lime to trap birds
Many coppices cleared in mid 1800s with winch, dynamite or fire. Replanted for timber or parks
Late 1800s intensive farming with a criss cross of old lanes and hedgerow
Alder for cheap and easy clogs, beech for quality