This was a bit of a departure from the usual walks as it was in reality a guided wander through Lower Wood Ashwellthorpe, which is nationally recognised as an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and is therefore protected by law..
The turnout was the largest so far of any of the current series of Parish Walks with 33 of us participating, on what proved to sadly be a rather damp and dismal day. This, however, did not dampen the spirits of everyone and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.
Barry Watkins (Warden of Lower Wood Ashwellthorpe) led the walk and gave a very instructive and interesting commentary. He started by leading us to his garden to give a bit of the history including the fact that the wood was recorded in the Domesday Book and has been used through the ages for collecting wood and feeding pigs. Apparently standard Oaks were planted in most Parishes and in this wood on the orders of Queen Elizabeth 1 for use in boat building (hopefully the invading navy did not arrive too soon as oaks take a long time to grow). Laterly the wood was used to provide wood for the Coop brush factory in Wymondham during the early part of the 20th Century. This wood was provided by coppicing (cutting trees down to the ground in a rotation as a harvest and allowing a few years growth for regeneration). People living in the village used to work there and Lily Thompson who lived on the Street and sadly died last year had many tales of working there.
We were intrigued to hear that the gap between Lower Wood and Upper Wood (seen directly ahead from New Rd) may have been cut around 1800 to provide a line of sight between Wreningham Church (it received signals from Telegraph Hill in Norwich) and Telegraph Farm in Bunwell. This was part of a signal network intended to warn of approaching Napoleonic ships, and messages could be sent from Gt Yarmouth to London in minutes. This Wreningham Church is not the present one (see note at the end of this report)
Anyway, we then walked via Barry’s garden to enter the wood. We walked in a large circle via the rides seeing a variety of flowers and trees. Sadly with the hard winter the bluebells and Ramsons (wild garlic) were not yet in flower. We saw celandine, wood anemone, early purple orchid, lady’s smock etc. Barry reminded us that this is the most northerly collection of Hornbeam trees in Britain, so we are lucky.
We saw the recent coppicing and heard explanations of the value to wildlife. A number of us do not like to see the coppicing as it seems a brutal way to manage a wood but we heard that it mirrors the way that the wood was managed previously and is bringing back flowers, insects, birds and animals that have been absent for years. Maybe,therefore, we will be lucky enough to have Nightingales return and hear their lovely song. In spite of the number of people and associated noise several people were lucky to see a Muntjak Deer (see wildlife page to see how to identify them). CLICK HERE to go to the Deer recognition page in this website
We were all encouraged by Barry to walk in the wood and enjoy it as we are lucky to have this lovely facility on our doorstep.
The walk finished via Barry’s garden again with a look at the pond created by digging clay for clay lump bricks.
We got home just in time to miss the heavy rain but it would have been good if the afternoon sun had accompanied us during the walk
CLICK HERE for a link to the Photo Album which contains the folder for this walk (Parish Walk 29)
Next walk 6th June starting at Fundenhall Church
Note about old Wreningham Church
St Mary Nelonde Church. This is shown on old maps as a ruin and some people can remember stones in the location. The Rectory which is passed if you walk past the wood towards Wreningham and Long’s wood was probably the site of the Rectory for this church.
Memory has it that the site which was pointed out was probably the one which is marked on the 1906 OS 25inch to the Mile map [Norfolk Sheet LXXXVI.7] as “Site of St Mary’s Church and Burial Ground” in Field Number 267. A more modern map ref. for this is 1:25.000 Sheet TM 09/19 – 148984. This site is some fields east of Bellar’s Grove; the map ref. for the latter is TM 09/19 – 141982.
Various studies done in the last 40 years may well have discounted the above site
NB We hope to add a powerpoint presentation about Lower wood to the website in the near future