Woodland History

The major traditional type of woodland management, relevant to industrial treescapes is coppice. From the Middle Ages until the second part of the nineteenth century ancient woods throughout the East Peak were managed as coppices, either as simple coppice or as coppice-with-standards. In coppice woods trees were periodically cut down to the ground to to encourage the growth of multiple stems, called coppice or underwood. In a coppice-with-standards woodland, some trees were allowed to grow on to become mature single-stemmed trees for producing timber. The timber trees, e.g. Oak, were used for building projects but their ‘by-products’, bark and lop and top, were also of economic value. The standards were of various ages.

Coppice provided wood not only for a huge variety of products (see Tree Species & Uses) but also for the manufacture of charcoal, whitecoal, potash and other chemicals. Coppice woods were valuable and particularly vulnerable to grazing damage in the first few years after coppicing because the new shoots were very palatable to livestock. For this reason, they were surrounded by stock-proof fences, banks with external ditches or with stone walls and hedges. Large woods were divided into compartments each with their own boundary and place in the cycle of coppice management. These woodland boundary features often survive and are important archaeological remains.

Many of the coppice woods were changed to ‘high forest’ from the end of the nineteenth century. Coppice stools were destroyed and a timber crop of faster growing trees (often conifers) was planted. This changed the character of these woodlands and in many cases the timber crop proved uneconomic and was never taken. Today the beech-sweet chestnut-conifer planted woodlands are common although archaeological and ecological features from coppice management may remain.

Wooded commons, parks, chases and forests are other types of historic treescapes which pre-date and then continue in parallel with industrial coppice management. See survey guide for more information. These treescapes could include mining and quarry sites and their trees were harvested. Today traces of them may exist in current industrial treescapes as pollard trees and hedges as well as in industrial archaeological remains. See the sections on hearths, pits and platforms, and boundaries and trackways.