Pigotts Wood is a typical Chilterns woodland. It is an ancient woodland - indicated not only by ancient woodland indicator plants such as the rarities Yellow Birdsnest, Coralroot Bittercress and Green Hellebore, but by the evidence of past management.
Special features, which are all manmade are easily seen in Pigotts Wood and include boundary banks, charcoal hearths, marker stones, sawpits, quarries and tracks.
These, and Pigotts Wood itself, are mentioned in many documents, the earliest of which records the sale of six acres of woodland in 1559. Since then, whenever the land has changed hands through wills and sales, details of the wood have been recorded. giving an insight into the woodland management and Chilterns lifestyle at that time.
The wood has numerous sawpits ranging in age and use from the seventeenth to early twentieth century, illustrating that the woodland has been an important source of large timber for centuries.
Quarries within the wood tend to have an obvious access point to allow carts to enter and remove the spoil and winnings. Materials which may have have been quarried include chalk, clay, flints and a hard sandstone deposit known as Denner Hill stone.
Samples of iron slag from Pigotts have been aged by Bradford University as Iron Age blacksmithing waste. The iron slag, although heavy, was easier to take to the wood for processing rather than was removing the required firewood fuel and clay for kilns - it could take up to 50 tonnes of wood to produce one tonne of iron!
A number of charcoal hearths have been identified. These are level soil-blackened platforms, cut into the sloping ground, about six metres across. Charcoal would have been used rather than raw wood as it burnt hotter than logs and the extra heat was essential for iron smelting.
Marker 'pudding stones' are found in the north of the wood. These were mentioned in deeds of 1654 when 3½ acres, “marked and bounded by great stones” was sold to Tom Fellowes.
There are many banks and ditches within the wood, denoting past landownership boundaries. The largest of the banks may well be more than a thousand years old.
Hornbeam trees are found along the length of one boundary bank running north-south in the north east area of the wood. A particularly fine specimen marks the junction point with another boundary bank – marking the spot where 3 properties once met.
Pigotts Wood has been studied a great deal and consequently many features have been found. It is very possible that your local wood contains saw pits, boundary banks, marker trees or stones, quarries or even charcoal hearths. Can you find any?
Pigotts Wood has long inspired artists including Eric Gill (see the Crucifix Tree), Clare Leighton and the Nash's. This unusual book was entered in the 2008 Special Woods Art Competition:
Please park safely and considerately and use the public footpaths to explore Pigotts Wood