27 Sep 2019

Darch's Wood Archaeological Survey

Back in January 2019, your Cross-in-Hand Amenities Society teamed up with Dr Vivienne Blandford to conduct an archaeological survey of the woods. Quite aside from the report itself (which we present to you below), such an undertaking helps us in planning how to manage the woods, including the creation of a formal management plan, which can then use to apply for longer-term funding for woodland support from various organisations.

Prior to this survey, only one archaeological site had been identified in the woodlands; the Roman (?) iron bloomery. This field survey identified a total of 26 features, not all of them strictly archaeological ones but were important to the understanding of this historic wooded garden landscape. Apart from the known Roman bloomery site in the woods, the earliest archaeological evidence is the eastern boundary bank and ditch which dates back to when the cultivated land was cut out of the wider Wealden woodland; when that was we can only speculate at present.

What was striking about this woodland survey was the lack of usual woodland management archaeological features, from charcoal platforms and saw-pits to mine pits and internal boundary banks. With its steep sides and deeply incised ghylls, this would have always been an extremely difficult wood to work for timber and charcoal, even before it was ready for extraction!

However, what the wood lacked in the usual woodland archaeology, it gained in its obvious later use
as a Victorian and Edwardian ‘pleasure ground’ in this part of the southern extremity of the High Weald. This development of the garden and wider landscape at Heatherden started in late Victorian times and continued into the early Edwardian period. The 1987 storm obviously did considerable
damage to the planted aspect of this woodland, but some specimen trees still survive.

For anyone, including local people, with even the most basic interest of the history of Darch's Wood and the community of houses which surround it, this is an illuminating and fascinating read.

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