History of the Wood

This is only a brief history of Chopwell Wood, a much fuller account has been published in a booklet which is available direct from the “Friends” (see ‘About Us’ or ‘Membership Info’ page for details).  Publication was made possible with the support of Heritage Lottery funding under the “Millennium Festival Awards for All” grant scheme.   “Chopwell Wood – Past & Present” costs £2 (plus a  £ 1 contribution for p. & p.), cheques should be made payable to  “Friends of Chopwell Wood”.  A discount is available for members.

Chopwell Woodland Park was once part of an extensive forest area which covered the countryside from just south of the River Tyne to Allenheads. This so called Wildwood formed about 6000 years ago and consisted of mixed deciduous trees, mainly oak and hazel.  Then Man arrived, and the destruction began!

By the 12th century the Wood was part of the Manor of  Ceoppa’s weille (named by the Saxons) which belonged to the Church.  After the dissolution of the monasteries the Crown granted or leased the Manor.  Timber from Chopwell was used throughout the 16th and 17th centuries to repair castles and bridges in Northumberland and Durham.

In 1635 over 1000 trees were marked for construction of a new war ship for King Charles I – “Sovereign of the Seas”, later renamed as “The Royal Sovereign”.  This was the first three-decked sailing war ship.

At the beginning of the l9th century much of the Wood was replanted with Oak, but in 1825 an invasion of mice caused a lot of damage by gnawing down many young Oaks!  Then on January 7th 1839, 20,000 trees were uprooted on “Windy Monday”. During the second half of the 19th century much of the Wood was planted with Larch and some Scots Pine

The Wood was drift under-mined in the 19th and early 20th centuries for coal deposits, and a mineral rail-line ran through the Wood.

In 1907, Armstrong College, which later became Newcastle University, took on the management of the Wood as a demonstration area and training ground for Foresters.

In 1919 the Forestry Commission (F.C.) took over management of the Wood, with the College still dealing as agents for the current stock.  The Transfer of the Woods Act in 1923 gave F.C. full control and they began a full scale replanting programme.   Much of the replanting was coniferous, but with some small groups of deciduous trees.

During the Second World War, in October 1941, a German Bomber dropped three high explosive bombs on the Wood, creating three deep craters.  These filled with water and have become an excellent wildlife habitat over the years, mainly due to the depth of the original craters!

With the designation of Woodland Park status in l993, a much greater emphasis has been placed upon conservation and recreation.   The commercial forestry is carried out with a  more sympathetic manner to these aims.  In 2005 the Wood was designated under the PAWS (Plantation on an Ancient Woodland Site) scheme, which prohibits further planting of any trees not native to the area.  The Forest Design Plan for Chopwell Wood instructs natural regeneration of species after any felling, or planting of native species only.