Farming and Woodland Management

Today there is not much surviving evidence on the ground of medieval field patterns due to the fields being made larger for modern agricultural practices. During this period major advances were made in farming technologies regarding the growing crops. Also there was development of the large sheep fold. Here Sheep spent the day high up on the downland but were bought down at night so they could fertilise the fields. Shepherds would chase the sheep around before returning to the hilltop in order to make them dung before leaving.
Sheep up on the Downs. Photo: Dan Lane

Much of the woodlands in the medieval period were being actively managed as coppice, which is where they are cut and allowed to regrow. Amongst the coppice taller trees would have been allowed to mature for larger timber. This system is known as coppice with standards and would have been an important feature of the landscape at the time. Hazel would have been one of the main species to have been coppiced and would have had many different uses such as fuel, charcoal, thatching spars or hurdles. The taller timber trees could have been used for construction. Some of the other wooded areas were managed as wood pasture where pigs were seasonally grazed for pannage (grazing of acorns) and cattle would have roamed amongst the trees. Here instead of coppicing the trees would have been pollarded where they were repeatedly cut above the height of a grazing animal. Much of the land south of the village was common land (known as Slindon Common today) where commoners grazed their stock or gathered bracken for bedding. There are still a few surviving pollards in this area today.
Old beech pollard. Photo: Bob Epsom