Rethinking Ancient Woodland: The archaeology and history of woods in Norfolk

For those of you that may be interested, this book has recently been published and is now for sale. I have ordered a copy for myself, as it’s something that greatly interests me as a topic, though I imagine it is also of significant interest to many others.

Below is a nice little description of the book, taken from the linked website in this post. I hope it’s enough to raise the curiosity of many of you who will read this blog post.

Drawing on more than a decade of research in Norfolk, the authors emphasise the essentially unnatural character of ancient woods. Their distinctive ecological characteristics only emerged after they had been enclosed from the surrounding ‘wastes’ in early medieval times, and began their career as factories for the production of wood and timber.

Since then they have been dynamic environments, changing in response to wider economic trends and demographic pressures: and much of their botanical character has been forged by relatively recent history. Woods are, moreover, rather less stable features of the landscape than is sometimes supposed. Few ancient woods retain, in whole, their original boundaries, and woodland has come and gone from the countryside over the centuries.

While most officially recognised ‘ancient woods’ probably occupy areas never settled or cultivated, many have been planted on, or regenerated over, sites formerly used in other ways, and often in quite recent times – in the seventeenth, eighteenth or even nineteenth centuries. These can display characteristics usually assumed to define genuinely ‘ancient’ examples, including impressive arrays of the classic ‘ancient woodland indicator species’. ‘Ancient woodland’ is not really a discrete environment at all, and an over-emphasis on conserving a defined list of such woods can lead us to neglect our other woodland environments, many of which have their own historical or ecological importance.

This important volume will be essential reading for all those interested in the history of the English countryside, nature conservation and environmental history.

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Rethinking Ancient Woodland: The archaeology and history of woods in Norfolk

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