Saturday 12 February 2011: Branching out...
Like skinny black fingers, the branches of the horse-chestnut trees at Old Sulehay Forest reach out towards each other, spread wide to maximise use of the available sunlight. These chestnuts are planted at the junction of the two main rides which cross the wood.The left hand tree is on the south side of the ride, and is seen as a silhouette, while the right-hand tree is bathed in sunlight.
Old Sulehay is a fascinating site, an ancient woodland on limestone, with patches of acid sand, that support a rich and varied flora. It has been forest since at least the 13th century, and was held by members of the Yarwell (or de Jarewell) family who resided at Old Sulehay Lodge. The Yarwells were head foresters of the Bailiwick of Clive or Cliffe (now Kings Cliffe). The Lodge and surroundings were part of Rockingham Forest, the royal hunting forest which extended from Wansford to Kettering.
The main rides through the wood may have been made in the 17th Century with perhaps some realignment at later dates. Straight rides were commonly made in woodlands when firearms became widely used for game shooting. Part of the wood was cleared in the 19th century and during the Second World War, servicemen and women were stationed in huts in and around the northern part of Sulehay. Afterwards, some of the buildings were used as housing by local people, and there was even a school in the forest. You can still find many artefacts from this period of human occupation within the forest (including old toilets) which always fascinated my children.
At this time of year parts of the wood are carpeted with snowdrops, thought to have been planted by the servicemen, but now naturalised. Of course these were also photographed, along with some of the gnarled and ancient trees which are present and a female pale brindled beauty moth, a strange little creature which has no wings and sits on a tree-trunk waiting for the winged males to come and mate with her. All of these photographs will appear on my blog in due course!
Best viewed large.