Binley Common Wood

Description of this historic site

Binley Common Wood, a Medieval (and probably earlier) managed woodland; former grazed common wood. The woodland comprises: woodbanks; a possible Medieval "trench"; an area of ridge and furrow and evidence of ancient coppicing.

Notes about this historic site

1 A 4.1 ha remnant of a larger coppice wood, mostly cleared in the mid-20th century for housing. Despite ambiguities in the record, this is probaby one of the two woods recorded in Domesday Book 1086. It was probably a grazed common wood until the mid-18th century, when it was finally enclosed and converted to coppice. The northern edge of the wood is defined by a straight bank and external ditch, around 3m in width. The northern quarter of the wood has straight, relatively narrow and probably late-18th century to early-19th century ridge and furrow throughout, with a large pond cut through it and therefore post-dating it. The woodbank dividing this section of the wood from the southern three-quarters and along the southern edge of the wood are straight, 5-6 m in overall width (including the wood ditch) and currently not dateable. It is possible that the northern woodbank represents the edge of a 13th century “trench”, a clearing cut back from the wood to protect travellers using the road to the north but it is not possible to prove this. The presence of coppice stools of ash Fraxinus excelsior up to 1.5 m in diameter on both woodbanks delimiting the southern three-quarters of the wood suggests that they are likely to be at least of 18th century origin. The western edge of the wod has a ditch but no bank; up to at least the mid-20th century there appear to have been two parallel ditches along this edge of the site. The eastern edge has no boundary features, apart from a metal fence erected 1998/9. The northern quarter of the wood is elm Ulmus procera / ash Fraxinus excelsior / sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus, probably planted c.1820-1830. The southern three-quarters is semi-natural hazel Corylus avellana – pedunculate oak Quercus robur woodland, much of which is being invaded by ash and sycamore moving south from the northern part of the wood. Of particular historical significance are three coppice stools of small-leaved lime Tilia cordata in the south-western corner and a clone of service tree Sorbus torminalis, both largely relict species confined to ancient woods. Much of the ground vegetation also consists of plants with an affinity for ancient woods in the area. The former history of grazing has strongly influenced the structure of the wood and probably also the composition, despite more than two centuries since grazing ceased and the wood was enclosed.
2 Presence of extensive old small-leaved lime coppice supports a Medieval date for woodland and may indicate a direct link with Prehistoric wildwood. Documentary evidence suggests that there were several small woods in Medieval times with stretches of heathland between. Some woods primary and others, eg Binley Little Woods, secondary as evidenced by fact that overlie broad ridge and furrow marks.

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