In 1982 my late wife Anthea and I bought the two small fields behind Groves Bank and Groves Dyke and we started to plant a new mixed Oakwood, helped by a ‘Tree Planting Scheme’ from the North York Moors National Park. They provided all the materials – and we provided all the labour!
We fenced about a quarter of the 5-acre wood every summer, then planted 100 young trees in the newly enclosed area every winter. I seem to remember that every summer we worked in a heatwave and every winter in a hard frost… but that may just be old age playing tricks again!
We wanted to create a little bit of ‘new’ Ancient Woodland, based on the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Local Nature Reserve at Littlebeck (which can just be seen from our favourite viewpoint at the top of the wood).
In addition to the existing Ash, Blackthorn, Elder, Hawthorn, Oak and Sycamore, the main species we planted were Oak, with some Alder, Ash, Field Maple, Gean (Wild Cherry), Holly, Scots Pine, Silver Birch, Whitebeam, Willow and lots of Hazel.
The different species were planted randomly, but the Hazels we grouped into four ‘coups’ of ‘cants’ for traditional coppicing (i.e. cutting each tree down, letting the stump grow a crop of long straight poles, cutting these once they grow to the required size, then waiting for the next crop, ad infinitum).
Hazel growth was disappointing at first, the Roe Deer just nibbling off the leading shoots as soon as they appeared from the top of the plastic Rabbit guards. There was going to be no point in coppicing at ground level! As an experiment we singled out and protected the best stem from each Hazel tree in the First Coup, removed the other stems and then (a year later) pollarded (cut the tops off) the singled stems just above deer-grazing height – and the trees grew taller!. Nothing new, of course, because the Domesday Book records that 1/3 of the neighbouring parish of Egton was ‘Wood Pasture’ 1000 years ago!
Now visitors to Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage can explore the steep, grassy path which encircles the wood. Walk past the woodyard and uphill to the Transformer Triangle, turn left and cross the beck (stream) by the Major Oak Footbridge. Just over the bridge is the Major Oak, a fine big tree about 250 years old and the biggest in the wood. Continue by the lower (wetter) path to the Second Coup, (or avoid it by the upper, drier path) then onwards, upwards and clockwise to cross the beck again by the Upper Footbridge and up to Anthea’s memorial stone at the Viewpoint. Then downhill all the way through the Fourth Coup and back to the Transformer Triangle again.
By the turn of the (last) millennium the trees which we planted in the early 1980s had the feel of a REAL wood, but they still have a long way to grow. If the Major Oak was planted about 1750 (in the days of Bonny Prince Charlie, Captain Cook, Cowboys and Indians), then our trees will be about the same size as the Major Oak by the year 2250 – and that IS a sobering thought…
Take a virtual walk around the wood with the Gallery or keep up to date with current events at Groves Dyke and area by clicking on Wildlife Diary.