|The History of Our Woodlands:
Some of our woods have long, complicated and fascinating pasts, in particular, Hindolveston Wood in North Norfolk. This wood has undoubtedly had trees growing on it since the "wildwood" became established after the last ice age and covered the whole of Norfolk roughly between 12,000 to 4,500BC. After this, civilization began to take a hand and by the time William the Conqueror instigated the Domesday Book in 1086 AD, there was only about 13% of "wildwood" left in Norfolk.
At the time of the Domesday survey, Hindolveston wood belonged to the Episcopal See of Norwich. It was held by the Priory of Norwich from 1101 to 1538 and then, after the dissolution of the monasteries, by the Dean and Chapter of Norwich Cathedral 1853. There have been four owners since.
Following a riot by the citizens of Norwich in 1272 when they sacked and burnt the cathedral priory, a huge amount of timber was sold from Hindolveston to pay for the repairs. After this a noticeable change took place in the management of the wood. The monks took advantage of the great felling to reorganize the woods to produce underwood and this was the start of a type of management, coppice with standards, which was to continue until the 1930's.
This was the ancient art of coppicing, which had commenced in the Bronze Age, and continued for many generations until the 1930's. We have records of what was produced and how coppice woods with standard trees were managed. "In 1925 the underwood was divided into nearly equal fells, each of which had been cut over every 8th year for many generations. The stools were mostly of hazel and very healthy. The eight-year rotation was the most convenient for making wattle hurdles, an industry of long standing in the district. Each fell employed 5 skilled men from the 1st November until the following April, and their average output was 60 dozen wattle hurdles, 700 bundles of pea sticks, 1000 stakes, 250 poles, 7000 tying bands, 500 fencing binders, 1000 wands for hammer sticks, 32000 brotches and prickers for thatching and 15700 brushwood faggots."
This type of management sustained the diversity and richness of Britain's ancient woodlands until their environments came under pressure as traditional markets for coppice died out, and many of these woods were cut down during the 2nd World War to be replaced by plantation forestry. However it takes a lot to kill coppice and the remnants of ancient woodland flora and with the restoration of coppicing and the development of new markets for the produce, these special environments can be and are flourishing again.