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Sunday, 14 September 2008

Slitt Wood

Slitt Wood is on Middlehope Burn, which flows south to the village of Westgate where it joins the River Wear. Westgate and Eastgate were the boundaries of the Bishop of Durham's Forest or hunting grounds.
This ancient remnant of woodland is an SSSI (site of special scientific interest). Wild flowers abound, such as dog's mercury, wood anemone and bluebells. Dog's mercury is a bizarre and fascinating name. If I can find out why it is so named, I shall let you know.
At High Mill is this waterfall and there are many more upstream, cascading over the ever changing carboniferous rock strata. Harder rocks resist erosion and become falls.

If you climb right to the top of the fell which overlooks the Low Slitt Lead Mine at the northern end of the wood, you can look down at this view of the tree tops. Such a small piece of woodland and so important. In the distance are the spoil heaps of the lead mine ( more of that in the next post).

Giant spoil heaps sit in the front of the wood with a distant and misty Weardale .
In early times Woodland and Forest were not really comparable terms. Woodland was indeed an area where trees grew closely together but Forest was classified by the activities allowed....hunting, mining and some farming. Sheep were not allowed because they competed with deer for grazing but cattle were allowed. They graze in a different way and in earlier times were considered to be suitable "forest" animals. So this Slitt Woodland was once a small part of the Bishop of Durham's Forest. The Bishop's lands were vast and their designation as forest or park allowed differing land uses to develop. Evidence of much Roman occupation is emerging and Romano-British social archaeology as well as the industrial archaeology was the subject of a guided ramble I did today in this area. Thankyou to Tom Gledhill for a wealth of fascinating information and to Paul Frodsham for stirring the "How did it happen?" pot.

It is great to be in the company of the leading experts and to hear them bounce ideas around and be included in the discussion. Although I admit I know so little that I added little. I even got tired and glib towards the end and simply suggested that they should dig a few holes to sort out what was below!!!

A great afternoon. And this is only part one of what I learnt.

Cheers Gillian


Rustaud said...

Really graphic and elegantly composed. Wish I had been there!

joco said...

I'll second that! Can I come along next time;-)

I am amazed at the number of guided day rambles you have available up North. And even outside the holiday season.

Just heard the other day that they now do archaeology by helicopter, with laser beams no less, to penetrate woodland and suss out what was there before.

Heide said...

What lovely countryside to walk through. I can almost imagine faeries flitting to and fro in the pictures.