Ryton Wood

Description of this historic site

Ryton Wood, a Medieval (and probably earlier) managed woodland. The woodland comprises: complex woodbanks of various dates; probably late to Post Medieval assarts; and evidence of ancient coppicing. The wood is situated 1km east of Bubbenhall.

Notes about this historic site

1, 2 Ryton Wood is a large wood of 86ha. Within the wood are two enclosures surounded by large woodbanks, with those around the enclosure to the west (henceforth referred to as A) more suinuous than those round the enclosure to the east (henceforth referred to as B). The woodbanks are typically around 7 to 10 metres, across both bank and external ditch. Smaller banks and ditches surround much of the rest of the wood. Shrubs and Forest Woods, in different parishes from Ryton, have large woodbanks on their side of the parish boundary where they abut on Ryton Wood. A particularly small and acute bank marks the wood-edge and parish boundary betwen the southern edge of enclosure B and Forest Wood. The two assarts or formerly cleared areas are surrounded by small, relatively straight banks; the northern assart has stubs or short pollarded trees on its northern boundary, perhaps from a former hedge planted to demarcate the assart.

As is frequently the case, accurate dating of these banks is currently impossible. Their size does suggest that the largest are likely to be Medieval. (For details of evidence for the dating of woodbanks in Warwickshire, see the SMR entry on Birchley and New Close Woods.) This and their interconnection do suggest a sequence of construction, with either A (of about c.24-28ha) followed by B (of about 16ha), or A and B together coming first, and the smaller, less sinuous banks in the rest of the wood coming later, although some may have been inherited from an earlier land-use. The assarts represent efforts to create fields out of parts of the wood at unknown dates. Their relatively small size and straightness suggests that they are late, perhaps Post Medieval. The very small acute bank between the edge of b and Forest Wood is almost certainly 18th or early 19th century; a map of 1763 (WCRO Lord John Scott estate 1763 Z8 22/1-3) shows a large wood in Stretton parish extending south from this edge of Ryton Wood, which is the parish boundary. 19th century Ordnance Survey maps from c.1830 show Forest Wood and the dge of Ryton Wood as they are today.

The reasoning is complicated by the evidence of the vegetation. Areas of ancient small-leaved lime Tilia cordata coppice are not, as might be expected from its usual behaviour as a relict species in British ancient woodland, restricted to the areas of the wood demarcated by the largest and therefore probably oldest banks and ditches. More fieldwork is needed to map apparent faint earthworks associated with the area of lime in the south-west corner of the wood.
3 Presence of extensive old small-leaved lime coppice supports a medieval date for the wood and may indicate a direct link with Prehistoric wildwood. Discussion of earthworks too.
4 Lovie comments on the clear geometrical layout with rides radiating from a central rond-point.

More from Forestry