Hywel goes back to school

There’s big news from my side of Blackbark: I’ve started on a PhD at Bradford Uni. Guess what? It’s about woodlands. More specifically it’s about the recent history of woodlands in the South Pennines. And when I say recent history, I mean the last 415 years, and how humans and woodlands have interacted. I want to find out more about how the characteristics of the woods of our region (e.g. how steep they are, which tree species thrive and how fast they grow) have influenced what we do with them and in them… and in turn how what humans have done has changed the woodlands.

So much has happened in the last 415 years! The South Pennines has been through unimaginable industrialisation, a population explosion, extremes of wealth and poverty, intense pollution, economic depression, a transport revolution and modern gentrification. Woodlands have gone from an essential part of the agricultural and early industrial economy to abandonment to a valued amenity. Unpicking these shifts and moves will be an absorbing and fascinating project. Can they be read in the woodlands themselves? What evidence have woodland workers of the past left behind?

If anybody would like to get in touch to chat about woodland history, feel free! I am, as always, at hywel<at>blackbark.co.uk. If you have interesting stories about your local wood or an old house deed that has cool maps on I would love to hear from you.

Massive thanks go out to Claire who has already started digging the big history hole, and to Robin at Pennine Prospects for putting me on to this. He’s hoping to get a whole bunch of money to run lots of exciting woodland heritage-related projects including community archaeology. Get in!

Brian and Jim do charcoal the old fashioned way. With gusto.

Brian and Jim do charcoal the old fashioned way. With gusto.

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