Historically, the parish was probably not wooded for long after the area was populated after the last ice age, other than having large areas of 'furze' in the centuries between the more intense agricultural activities in the 13-14th centuries (and earlier) and the 19th century to the present. Some of this furze may have survived, as Fox Coverts is shown on the earliest currently known extant map of the parish, the Yarborough estate map of 1772 which records much of the current field layout, presumably following enclosure. The fields now called Near and Far Chalk Pit, at the south-east end of the parish, are recorded on that map as Furze. Being largely shallow soil over chalk, it probably consisted of little more than scrub. The mortgage document which gives rise to the Yarborough possession of the estate around 1742 mentions nearly a thousand acres of furze in the parish, nearly half the total area.
At the north end of the parish, this is probably the most continual area of woodland in the parish, being recorded as Osier Holts in the Bradley Estate map of 1832, its damp clay supporting willows then and still at the turn of the 19th century when Squire William Wright was selling osiers to local contractors to harvest. There was a brick pit nearby, probably just on the Ravendale side of the boundary, and the clay extraction probably gave rise to the pond. The Squire and his sister Maggie replanted the woodland above the ponds in the 1890's. He records a battle with gorse regrowth to get the plants established. The lower compartment, near the road, was planted up in the 1950's, and contains some fine oak and horse chestnuts. The pond was dug out in the 1980's. There used to be a magnificent line of elm trees along the road from Petterhills to Wold Newton, which Squire records in his field notes as being planted by the Walesby's when they tenanted the North Farm from the Yarborough's, and which succumbed to the Dutch Elm disease in the early 1980's.
Stock Furlong Wood.
At the eastern end of the parish, the 1772 map has a note that it was planted up in 1809, maybe by John Wright, then tenant of South Farm. The previous rig and furrow of the field can still be made out, running east-west. It has a deep clay soil, being similar to the Marsh soil to the east, but elevated on the eastern edge of the Wolds. It currently contains some fine oak and sweet chestnut, amongst the prevailing ash and sycamore. A number of elms were removed in the early 1980's. Squire Wright records in the first decade of the last century going up to the wood to get blackberries (which may still be found in some profusion) and getting so lost in the thickness of the plantation that he had to climb a tree to get his bearings to get out. The wood must have been replanted some time previously to be in the thicket stage. Being on good soil, it produces the best timber in the parish. My father used to say that the wood, sitting with a clear view over the Humber estuary, was used as a landmark by shipping navigating into the ports. The woodland appears to jut out of the line of the parish boundary, but the original parish boundary, as on the 1772 map, did zig-zag around, and Squire records in his notes on field names, that the boundaries between Wold Newton and Hawerby and Beesby were straightened by mutual consent in the eighteenth century, and the wood having been planted, was left out of the line. It has quite definite earth banks on its southern and northern edges. A section of the field to the north of the wood has recently been fallowed, and has been swiftly filled with self set ash and sycamore seedlings. It may prove a waste as the ash has been badly struck by the chalara disease.
The Bradley map of 1832 shows the Valley Wood, a dry glacial valley to the east of the Grange, planted up in just about its current form, while the 1772 map does not. It has the wooded area as part of the field to the north, still called Hundred Acre, although it's currently only eighty acres, but would be a hundred acres with the wooded area included. It contains some splendid beech trees, quite possibly around 200 years old. (John Wright is recorded as married at Wold Newton to Margaret Searle in 1788, and died in 1838. I have read somewhere a note by Squire mentioning a Wright family tradition that John Wright planted the beech trees in the Valley. The beeches at Scallows, where he lived, are a similar age.)
In 1972 a freak gale from the west went along the Valley like a wind-tunnel, and blew down about 40 of the old beeches, the upturned root-plates still being visible in places. Squire records a constant battle with rabbits in the Valley, which is still infested today. Some arboricultural oddities can be found there, such as an Austrian pine, and a box tree (or rather shrub). Ash and sycamore, as in most of the woodland, are the most successful species. There are areas of snowdrop and aconite in the woods, which were specifically mentioned in the agricultural tenancy agreement granted to George Dale for South Farm, a condition of the tenancy being that the snowdrops should not be interfered with. These, and the footpath that runs through the wood, make it a popular walking area.
Squire records going up to South Farm in the first decade of the twentieth century to see Bacon, the joiner/carpenter from Ashby, steam-sawing timber felled in the Valley to use for fencing.
An area at the eastern end of the valley has recently been left fallow, which has resulted in a magnificent natural spread of ash and sycamore trees, with a few beech and some oak, as well as the goat willow that regenerate wherever land is left available.
The woodland to the west of the church and Park. The section nearest the Park, at the eastern end, Squire records in his diaries as being planted up by himself and Joe Small, together with the wood in Cow Walk on the opposite side of the village street, which he calls Summer Hills, in 1910-12. The long section to the west, alongside the field now called Bottom Church in South Farm, contains what Squire calls 'Double Hedge', a large bank that runs east-west on the north side of the wood and continues along the north side of Top Church field, and had some fine elms which succumbed also to the disease in the 1980's, most of the last rotting stump falling in the gales in December 2013.
At the western end of the parish, on an odd corner of Swinhope Walk field on the road to the Click'em pub, this was also planted up in the 1920's, perhaps giving it its name after the First World War. Ash and sycamore predominate, with a few beech.
Copses at the South end of Far Chalk Pit field
Squire records in his field notes that the two corners of fields planted in the 1920's near Scallows crossroads were pretty useless. Today they have established quite well, with some limes in the Far Chalk pit side. They have been extensively replanted, as losses must have been fairly high due to rabbits.
Planted in the mid-1990's with the aid of a Forestry Commission grant, around the sites of the top reservoir of the old village water-system, and the old gravel pit in the field variously known as Stocky, Hawerby Field or Mushroom Close. Hardwoods planted in sections have now closed canopies in the more vigourous ash and sycamore areas, and the blackthorn has formed dense thickets which are a refuge for the deer recently moved into the parish. Being planted at right-angles to the prevailing westerly air-flow, as the trees gain height over the tops of the hedge on the west side, so their growth slows. It will probably be the second or third generation of trees that will reach any height.
Here's a newspaper cutting picturing a massive elm tree felled somewhere within the parish:
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