Heritage in the Wood

In 2006 we applied and were successful in securing funding to develop the heritage aspects in the Wood, together with accompanying educational materials.  We are grateful to the Countryside Agency for their help, and the Heritage Lottery Fund for their grant, under the LHI (Local Heritage Initiative) scheme.

Chopwell Wood has a long industrial past in mining and the production of timber.   In the 21st Century it is a community woodland, with Woodland Park status.  The Wood is home to a diversity of wildlife, trees and plants, and supports a range of leisure activities.  Many people who use the Wood for recreational purposes, such as walking, horse riding and bike riding, are probably unaware of its industrial past, and the considerable parts of the past that remain in the Wood to this day.

The following 18 sites (since reduced to 16)  were chosen as significant in some way to the local heritage of the Wood.  The LHI scheme encompasses a broad definition of heritage, and we have aspects of natural, cultural, industrial and built heritage within our project plan.  The original Heritage Sites leaflet has now been updated and reprinted, this includes the map and further information.

Heritage Sites Map

Chopwell Wood Walking Trails MapFOCW Walking Trails Map Key

Click images above to enlarge

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1. Victoria Garesfield Colliery Tower – Site of a former colliery airshaft, which was dismantled in the 1960s.  This was built with white “Lily” bricks from a nearby colliery brickworks.

2. Chopwellgate Cottage – This is a former forester’s cottage, built in 1831, which is now a privately owned residence.

3. Stoney Road – One of the first roads built in this area, the original stone road surface can be seen on a section on the bridge.  The railway bridge, built in 1894, is the last remaining example of its type in the area.

4. Golf Pond – Fed by a stream, which crosses part of the golf course.  Originally created as a source of water with which to fight forest fires.  We have been trying to solve the pollution problem, which was probably caused by former mine workings.

5. Chopwell Colliery Fan – Used to blow bad air out of the colliery and good air in.

6. Chopwell/Garesfield Railway & Trucks – A major project in recent years funded by the Friends in which a short length of track was restored and two coal wagons acquired and restored.

7. Beech Trees – These are some of the most amazing trees in the Wood and have the greatest girth around their trunks.

8. Site of Former Sawmill – A temporary structure built for processing timber during World War 2.  An artists impression of the sawmill was commissioned, and this has been done by, Rolf Parker, of Skylark Studio’s.

9. Tubway – Another major project funded by FoCW.  A length of track has been restored on the line of the original Victoria Garesfield tubway, four coal tubs were restored and placed on the track.

10. Footpath and Culvert Bridge – A footpath, shown on a map from 1850.  There is also an old stone culvert at this point believed to be about 200 years old.  We have restored the footpath and a footbridge in the style recorded in an old photograph.

11.  Road to the Furnace – The road that led to the Derwentcote steel furnace at Hamsterley is visible from this point.

12.  Bomb Ponds – Created during World War 2 by a stray German bomber.  Now a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI).

13. Brick Settling Tanks – Restoration work done on parts of former sluice settling tanks near the River Derwent.

14.  Victoria Garesfield Colliery Yard – The colliery opened about 1865 and closed in 1962.  The colliery buildings, brickworks, railway engine sheds and houses were in this area. The railway tunnel can still be seen.

15. Pitman’s Ride – Name given to route used by the colliery workers on their way to the mine.  A commemorative seat, carved in oak by artist Richard Caink, has been sited here.

16. Fiddlers Green – Area in the Wood where the original forestry buildings were located, now privately owned houses, but the Forestry Commission still maintains an office and storage facilities.  Forest Classroom is also here.

17. Coppice Area – Coppicing, charcoal making and bushcraft have been practised in the Wood for hundreds of years, and is very much part of the cultural heritage of the Wood.  We have kept these traditional skills alive in the community by training local volunteers.  The Coppice area is no longer in use and has been removed from the updated leaflet.  It is hoped to establish a new Coppice area soon.

18. Bridge and Nature Trail – The Nature Trail was created by the Friends and opened in 1997.  This Nature Trail is now CLOSED and will not be maintained.  This site has been removed from the updated leaflet.

An information leaflet with a map of the significant points and the details as to their importance to local heritage was produced and has recently been updated and reprinted.  A copy of the map is also available on our Woodland Walks webpage. Specific interpretation boards have been located at; site 3 on the Bridge, site 9 the Tubway, site 13 the Settling Tanks, and site 15 the Pitman’s Ride.  A full project board is located at the information point in the main car park.

We also worked with local school children to create road signs for some of the forest roads.  Three of the forest roads in the Wood already have commonly used names.  These are Pitman’s RideCopper Beech Avenue and Stoney Road.  Although these names are marked on maps of the Wood there are no actual signs on forest roads.  We asked the local children, through their primary schools, to think about how the names might have originated together with suggesting names for three other forest roads.  Wooden road signs have been made and are being installed.

The development of educational materials was seen as an integral part of our Heritage Trail proposals; only in the 21st century these materials will be computer based, and available through a website developed in association with the Northern Grid for Learning.  The project details and materials for schools are at  http://www.northerngrid.org/chopwell

The project is now completed.