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The River Wye


Trilloes Court Wood

Thursday 18th May

Investigating the Wye Valley

Woodlands by David Lovelace

This was the last in a series of four two-hour lectures and field trips for Ross Lecture Club run by the Landscape Origins project

The group admiring some fine spikes of the early purple orchid (Orchis maculata)'


The early purple orchid (Orchis maculata)'

Members of the Ross Lecture Club visited Trilloes Court Wood, Bolstone. The wood has a well documented history back to 17th century of traditional coppice management producing charcoal for the local iron industry and also bark for tanning. The Forestry Commission acquired the wood the 1950’s, stripped it of remaining timber and tried to plant up parts of it with Larch and Norway Spruce in the 1970’s but lobbying by the Herefordshire Council for Protection of Rural England forced them to keep the wood mainly broadleaved.

It was sold in the 1990’s and is now owned by Sherwood Keogh who lives in the wood in a 1954 bus and runs ‘Goods from the Woods’ which makes a variety of traditional woodland products including cleft oak stakes for park palings, charcoal, hurdles and oak boards.


We saw an oak butt being slabbed up into planks by a mobile band-saw.

The fine stand of bluebells in the wood extended into the adjacent meadow which was formerly part of the wood and we also admired fine examples of the Early Purple Orchid, Herb Paris and many Twayblade orchids.

Group of twayblade orchids (Listera ovata) see close-up of florets below


Twayblade orchid

Other plants we saw: yellow archangel, dog’s mercury, wood speedwell, wood spuge, pignut and dog violet.  The wood rises up the north facing scarp toward the Bolstone/Little Dewchurch parish boundary from where a spring emerges from limestone strata depositing calcium carbonate known as ‘tufa’. This spring is long reputed to have curative powers especially for the eyes and supplies Sherwood’s water. The woodland stands are mainly young ash, hazel, birch, willow with occasional wych elm and field maple and alder along the stream from the spring. The 1953 Forestry Commission census describes the wood as ‘hazel 80%; ash 10%; lime alder willow birch and cherry 10%’ and ‘a few scattered standards mainly of ash. Coppice worked. Age 1-15 years’. Secreted just below the spring is a well preserved rectangular moated site whose origin is a mystery. Along the scarp we examined a large flat area of blackened soil which is where the charcoal burners of former centuries tended their dome-shaped piles of coppice poles carefully smouldering for days until only the charcoal was left. A forgotten itinerant society, the charcoal burners and their families lived and worked most of their lives in the woods. We discussed more recent issues of the future of woodlands in time of energy shortages, globalisation and damage to new growth by deer and grey squirrels. Also the irony of leaving large areas of unmanaged but potentially productive woodlands while subsidies are focussed upon the intensive cultivation of exotic ‘energy crops’ on farmland




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This project was part-financed by the European Union (EAGGF) and DEFRA through the Herefordshire Rivers LEADER+ Programme.