Thursday, 17 July 2014

Swartha Wood subject of £49,800 study
A two-year investigation into the industrial history, archaeology and ecology of Swartha Wood has been carried out using a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £49,800. The study was conducted by the Bradford Environmental Action Trust, which had identified Swartha Wood as a possibly ancient site. A 1639 document refers to wood from Swartha being used in local coal pits. For a woodland to be designated as ancient, it has to have existed since AD1600. Surveys by Bradford Botany Group show that the wood, which is covered in bluebells and ramsons (wild garlic) in spring, is home to at least 16 plant species known to favour ancient woodland. The picture above shows Brunthwaite beck as it flows through the wood. More spring-time photos can be seen in my posts of May 2014.
Above: The Victorian aqueduct in the heart of  the wood was part of a system constructed to take water from the Dales to Bradford at the height of the industrial revolution. Built in 1858, the aqueduct  is still in use. The name Swartha comes from an Old English word meaning dark ravine.

Above: Ian Butterfield, Forest of Bradford project manager, and Jen Miles, project manager for Bradford Environmental Action Trust, are pictured at an exhibition at SilsdenTown Hall on June 28 and 29 when their Swartha Wood investigation was explained to the public. Universities and community groups have also been involved in the project. Swartha Wood belonged to Skipton Castle, which sold its Silsden holdings in 1947, whereupon timber merchants moved in and extensively felled local woods, under government licences supporting the post-war recovery. In 1949 Silsden council failed to halt the desecration of Swartha Wood, which it described as one of the most beautiful places in the country. There is still no statutory protection for ancient woods but Jen hopes that the Trust's findings will help to preserve Swartha for future generations. She says that a management plan is needed and that it will be beneficial to reintroduce coppicing. Jen also feels there is probably a lot more to be discovered.