Woodlands

In the last 200 to 300 years there had been a shift in managing coppiced woodlands into ones that would produce large quality timber trees.

The woods surrounding the medieval deer park were planted with beech dating back to 1713 (estimated by ring dating). These trees grew to towering heights with very straight stems without any side branches until at least 50 feet. Around 90 percent of these trees fell during the 1987 great storm. Last time there was a storm so ferocious it was in 1703, ten years prior to the planting of the magnificent beeches of Park Woods.
Some of the surviving beech trees in Slindon Park Woods. Photo: Bob Epsom

In the 1880s Slindon Common was enclosed and was planted up with trees. It has been wooded ever since but there are some indications of its former land use with patches of bracken and gorse in some of the more open areas.

During the 1st World War much of the area of North Wood and Eartham Woods was cleared as the timber was of major use for the war effort particularly for pit props as coal mining was increased. 75 hectares of this land was ploughed during the 2nd World War under the direction of the War Agricultural Committee

In the 20th century, the widespread planting of non native conifers took place. These trees reach maturity a lot quicker than broadleaves do. Sometimes conifers have been planted as ornamental trees such as the Wellingtonia (a type of redwood) along the old carriage drive beside Park Lane.

Since the late 1940s, Eartham Woods have been managed by the Forestry Commission on a long lease. Here timber production of beech has been the main aim but there is excellent public access for quiet recreation provided.
Eartham Woods, the Forestry Commission managed part of the Slindon Estate. Photo: Bob Epsom

At the end of the 20th century the timber markets collapsed, partly due to the amount of timber created after the 1987 storm but mostly down to the increase in new harvesting technologies and cheaper imports from Scandanavia and Eastern Europe.

Most of the woodlands of the Slindon Estate are classified as being ancient, which means that they have been continually wooded since AD1600 or the earliest map of the area. Ancient woodlands have their own unique flora with species such as Butchers broom, Woodruff and Yellow archangel indicating an area that has tree cover for sometime.
Butchers Broom a plant of ancient woodlands. Photo: Bob Epsom