How ancient are our Ancient Woodlands?

How ancient are our Ancient Woodlands at Chidswell and Heybeck?

Dum and Dogloitch Woods are two distinct woodlands. Just a moderate stroll separates the two woods but each has its own distinct ‘feel’.

Dum Wood is easily accessible from ‘civilisation’, respectfully distanced houses are in view from the wood but just far away enough not to pollute the environment with noise or light. The woods feel friendly and welcoming – neat winding paths with holly archways. Untouched and untended, the trees and plants seem to have given this welcome of their own accord.

Just down from Dum Wood, is the tree-lined watercourse connecting to Dogloitch Wood – a natural high-way for shy creatures to move from one wood to the other. They can fly, scurry or swim between the two on their very own road network.

The Great Spotted Woodpeckers frequent both woods and who knows which is their preferred, permanent, residence? Perhaps they have second homes in each wood!

Dogloitch Wood has a different feel to Dum Wood. It takes a little more effort to reach and it sits in isolation. Suburbia does not exist when you enter Dogloitch, and the woods seem to know it! You feel like a privileged visitor and you enter an environment where humans are only guests. If you visit the woods in the cold or rain, you can be lucky enough to be the only human soul in the environment. Even in the summer you will only occasionally pass a dog-walker, runner or rambler.

Both woods offer a rare chance to be-at-one with nature and are a precious commodity that should be protected. Certainly not one that should be encircled by houses and factories. The influx of casual visitors will be devastating to their currently unspoilt state.

The change to biodiversity would be irreversible if this development goes ahead. If the waterways become polluted (as the impact assessments say they will be) the delicate ecosystem will be destroyed. The sticklebacks and minnows that feed the Kingfishers and others will die. The food chain disrupted, the Kingfishers will lose their food supply and be displaced, or worse.

The bluebells, which give the woods their status in the Kirklees Wildlife Habitat Network will be trampled by all the new visitors.

The breeding bird populations will be predated and disturbed by household pets.

Centuries of blissful isolation destroyed with this huge development.

So how do we know these woods are ancient? Here’s what the Woodland Trust have to say:

“Home to myth and legend, where folk tales began. It fuelled our ancestors and still houses thousands. Ancient woodland has grown and adapted with native wildlife, yet what remains only covers 2.5% of the UK.

Ancient woodland has been around for so long it has developed special communities of plants and animals not found elsewhere. It’s an important habitat and in sore need of protection.

Ancient woods are areas of woodland that have persisted since 1600 in England and Wales, and 1750 in Scotland. This is when maps started to be reasonably accurate so we can tell that these areas have had tree cover for hundreds of years. They are relatively undisturbed by human development. As a result, they are unique and complex communities of plants, fungi, insects and other microorganisms.”

Here is an interesting piece of history that proves the ancient status of the woods at Chidswell – and quite a bit earlier than 1600. Here is an ancient manuscript dated 1309 – 1310 where the landowner of the area, Lord Savile, references the thinning of the woods at Chidsal.

More than 700 years of protection, by means of their isolation, to be changed forever if this development is approved by Kirklees Council.

It would seem Lord Savile took a little more care of his woods than the current owners (Church of England) are doing!

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