Archaeologists trace hidden heritage of Yorkshire’s woodlands

Woodland across Yorkshire has been painstakingly surveyed by archaeologists who have discovered a total of 406 areas of historical interest, some of which date back to the medieval era. 

The surveys were carried out at 40 of our woodland sites.

We are aiming to understand more about the history and heritage of our ancient woodland so that it can be appropriately protected and managed in the future. 

The surveys, carried out by JB Archeology Ltd, supported by local groups and specialists, added new data to the bank of information already known about historical sites across Yorkshire. Such as:

•The once extensive and critically important WWII training area on the edge of Langsett woods near Barnsley. During the war the area was full of troops who used it for bomb and weapon training and to protect the reservoir from a dambuster type bombing raid. 

•The remains of the abandoned settlement of Scar village in Upper Nidderdale which in the 1920s was a thriving village of 2,000 inhabitants involved in the construction of  Scar House reservoir.

•The drowned settlement of West End near Blubberhouses in Nidderdale which was evacuated and flooded during the construction of Thruscross reservoir in the 1960s. 

•Hundreds of arborglyphs (tree carvings or tree graffiti) at Ryburn wood near Ripponden some of which dated back to the first world war from men who were about to be conscripted to fight in the Great War.

Geoff Lomas, Recreation & Catchment manager at Yorkshire Water, said: “We want to do our best to be a responsible landowner and one way we can do this is to conserve the ecology of woodland that we own for future generations to enjoy. This means we had to deepen our knowledge about the heritage of these sites so that when we want to carry out conservation work the heritage of these sites is not damaged. Lots of these places have a rich history and it’s nice to think that this will be preserved for prosperity’s sake.” 

The results of the surveys have all been shared with the Historical Environmental Record offices of which there are several throughout Yorkshire. These public archives hold a catalogue of information that is an important starting point for anyone interested in archaeology, build heritage and history of an area. 

Mel Dalton, Heritage Officer at North Yorkshire County Council, said: “The surveys have increased our understanding of these areas of woodland. The most interesting aspect has been the 19th and 20th century remains associated with the creation of the reservoirs and water works, including aqueducts, sluices, weirs, tanks, and even the remains of former workers houses. This has given us a fascinating insight into historic water management which was previously poorly understood.” 

We manage our woodland to the UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS) which is an independent certification standard for the verifying of sustainable woodland management in the