Update on first week of survey - Wed 12th to Thurs 13th April

Wednesday 12th April

Wednesday began with traditional Lakeland weather of drizzle and blustery winds, but after a dull start, the day was beginning to brighten as we set out to continue surveying Great Arklid Wood. The archaeology continued in the same vein as Tuesday with charcoal pitsteads galore! Mervyn, Ken, Sue and Clare began by re-locating the end of the transects walked on Tuesday and within a few paces of setting out up popped the features. We gathered to start recording and by lunch had recorded 5 pitsteads, a relic wall, a trackway and some gateposts. The wood had changed in its character from open broadleaf with the suggestion of a carpet of bluebell cover to emerge in the next few weeks, to quite dense mixed conifer on a steeper gradient. Despite the change in the appearance of the wood, the archaeological features remained much the same, as the planting regime evidently post-dates the charcoal production activity.

Ken providing a human scale on a pitstead in Great Aklid Wood

In the afternoon, and under a blessed sunny sky, we headed into Underland Wood and Riddings Spring towards the southern end of Gt. Arklid. The intention had been to put further transects across but it became apparent that the level topography and open nature of the wood made visability right across the woodland floor possible as we walked. Quickly Mervyn, who was following the northern boundary, happened upon an interesting levelled area or platform with a revetment wall and relic boundary wall associated that we gathered to record. After this we continued into an area of dense bramble cover with further pitsteads and some relic stone walling. Towards Ridding Spring evidence of recent woodland management, most likely programmes of intermittent thinning and re-planting made the ground impassable in places (along with the dreaded brambles!) Ken and Mervyn gamely agreed to plough through bramble affected areas to walk over small open areas beyond, this resulted in a further pitstead in Ridding Spring as the day drew to a close. A lung-expanding walk up the road to the cars (oooh it’s steep on foot!) saw us arrive back satisfied with a grand day’s survey. Thanks to all!

Russ recording the level area with retaining wall

Sue on the level area (probably for a pitstead)

Thursday 13th April

Maundy Thursday, to many the eve of a 4 day weekend but for Chris, Alison, Roger, Liz and I a day of experiencing the trials and tribulations of uncharted woodland! We set out to survey the Arklid Intake Wood, however the undergrowth in the wood - comprised of young tree growth, brambles and gorse - proved almost completely impenetrable. In places there were also areas of very dense new conifer plantation. Following the path through the wood we assessed the prospects of being able to survey any part of the wood but to no avail. We did record a section of the boundary wall which included a nice example of a rabbit ‘smoot.’

Chris and Alison enjoying their lunch. Surveying is hungry work

Historic boundary wall
Onwards we went to Stock Wood where we met with much the same problem. The woodland would tantalisingly seem to open up sufficient to attempt transects but then the dense undergrowth would return and we were beaten back! Although the OS map shows whether woodland is broadleaf, conifer or mixed, which is a good indicator of what to expect, the exact nature of the ground coverage can still surprise you! Both woods that are regularly managed (through periodic thinning and re-planting) and those left to Mother Nature’s care can prove difficult to traverse. We persevered through Stock Wood and were rewarded with some relic trackways and boundary wall and a section of water leat, perhaps small return for a long day crashing through dense, prickly undergrowth but such is the nature of survey in woodland! The general conclusion was that it had been an adventurous and rewarding day, lots of good navigation practice (not least for me – many thanks to Roger and Chris for working out where exactly we were in Stock Wood at one stage!) and general orienteering, and the features – though fewer in number than previous days - once again offered a tantalising glimpse into the hidden past of the woodland.
Liz investigates an area of old coppiced trees

Thursday's volunteers after a hard days surveying!


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