Identification Guides - SHADOW & GHOST WOODS
The range and type of archaeological remains and features which can be found associated with contemporary treescapes may vary with the continuity of woodland cover. It may depend on whether it can be classed as ancient, secondary, re-grown or replanted. The type of woodland, for example upland Oak-Birch wood, or Alder-Willow carr, affects the uses it was put to, its likelihood of being cleared or how it was maintained in the past, and so the types of archaeological evidence which may persist.
Where land has been converted for arable agriculture for example, archaeological features have often been destroyed through ploughing and levelling of the land. This is not the case in areas that have had tree cover for centuries or may not be the case in more marginal upland areas used for grazing. Here features are more likely to survive, both those caused by activities directly associated with woodland management and those that happen to be in the woodland, possibly originating from earlier land-use. In some cases, features may also survive in secondary or more recent woods, but this will depend on past management and levels of disturbance. Understanding this complexity is important if a treescape is to be appreciated in its entirety and to be conserved effectively for the future. Recognition of the evidence and awareness of its potential vulnerability is vital. The existence of a ‘shadow’ or ‘ghost’ woodland or even isolated trees within a treescape may be linked to or identified through associated archaeological features.
Woodland archaeological remains incorporate and survive as:
- soils, sediments, and buried deposits including seeds and other organic material preserved in waterlogged ground;
- living and dead trees and their remnants;
- stones, structures and ruins;
- material scattered on site - such as flints, cast off tools and equipment, domestic materials from settlements, etc.;
- earthworks such as banks and ditches, and platforms and pits;
- and the vegetation itself.
Archaeological features found associated with treescapes may be related to:
- Land ownership and management (banks, ditches, gateposts, hedges, walls, boundary trees).
- Woodland processes and products (pits, platforms, sawpits, storage and processing sites, access routes and trackways; settlement sites).
- Industrial extraction (stone, coal and other minerals) and industrial processes (smelting, milling, production of potash and gunpowder).
- Agricultural phases of land use (field systems, boundaries, buildings, plough marked stones).
- Recreational and sporting activities now (wargaming, pheasant shoots) and in the past (Victorian pleasure gardens).
- Settlement sites (from prehistoric to modern).
- Military activity (trenches and bolt-holes; bomb craters; tank platforms, searchlight and gun emplacements).
- Transport structures (tramways, packhorse routes, bridges).
Pits and Platforms
There are many different types of pits and platforms found in treescapes, but not all relate to specific woodland uses. Some may relate to other industrial uses such as mineral extraction; others may be co-incidental, for example, military tank platforms; and others may be natural features. It will probably be difficult to distinguish between some of these without a careful survey and background historical research. They can be defined by threebroad categories:
Relating to Woodland Processes
- Charcoal hearth
- Whitcoal kiln (or Q-pit)
- Potash kiln
Both Relating to or Incidental to Woodland Management
- Processing, storage & building platforms
Incidental to Woodland Management
- Mines, quarrying & stone-getting pits
- Tree-throw pits
- Military remains
Linear features can offer remarkable insights into the history of our landscape and are some of the most important historic features you may come across in your research. They may include boundaries and route-ways but also ancient cultivation areas such as field lynchets. Some boundaries are not continuous features on the ground, but are marked at intervals by boundary stones and distinctive immovable landmarks, such as watercourses, natural outcrops, and prehistoric monuments. There are many different types of linear features found in treescapes, but only a few relate specifically to woodland uses.
- Tracks & Routeways