Wheathampstead Heritage: Virtual Museum Exhibit
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This bridleway is an ancient route, as shown by the fact that it is sunk below the level of the neighbouring fields and has thick hedges on both sides. It was identified as part of the parish boundary of Wheathampstead when Edward the Confessor gifted the parish to the Westminster Monastery in 1060; it is still the parish boundary today.
In the hedgerow on your left, note the remains of what was once a coppiced hazel hedge, much of it laid using traditional techniques. Hedge-laying involves cutting halfway through the upright stems and trunks, laying them near-horizontally along the line of the hedge and interweaving them with vertical stakes; this encourages the growth of a dense livestock-proof barrier. Styles of hedge-laying vary across the country.
Further along the path, on the west side, there is a woodland made up of what was once coppiced hornbeam. Woods like this are common throughout Hertfordshire. Coppicing is a basic principle of good woodland management and can be practised on hazel, willow, oak, hornbeam, beech, ash and other trees. It involves cutting down the tree to near its base in order to encourage the growth of multiple stems from the stump. After a number of years, these stems are cut again and the cycle is repeated. For centuries, this practice provided wood and timber for use in building, furniture-making, fence-making, charcoal-burning, and as household fuel. A coppiced woodland is very wildlife-friendly, as you will see a few yards further along this path.
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Date Created: 09/03/2013 11:54:18, by: patrick Date last edited: 25/02/2014 10:37:47, by: patrick