Savernake Forest History
- Vegetation on the plateau was most likely semi natural (i.e. not untouched by human hands).
- Most of the settlements were on the fringes.
- Development of field system in the surrounding area due to the prime agricultural land on the chalk geology.
- Political instability led to the development of hill forts in the area; such as Chisbury.
- Woodland at this time would have been quite fragmented with surrounding farmsteads.
- Woodlands were depended upon for timber.
- Archaeology on the plateau suggests that the centre had some sort of spiritual significance.
- Establishment of a town on the Kennet
- Large areas of the Plateau were opened up to mixed farming.
- Thriving local pottery industry.
- economic decline saw forest regeneration – probably starting eith birch and blackthorn and eventually being succeeded by oak, beech and ash.
- population density was still low on the plateau.
- A settlement at Little Bedwyn grew into a Royal Estate.
- Under political stability the population grew and the landscape changed – farmsteads, wood pastures and isolated wooded groves.
- Archaeological evidence of divided land from this period.
- Most of the land was still in common useage.
- Bedwyn was a major estate and this led to the establishment of Savernake Forest.
- This combined land held by supporters and servants of the King.
- The products of the forest would have then been used for the benefit of the Estate.
12th and 13th Centuries
- Forests were quite political and populations were growing – leading to fines and rules being imposed.
- This also led to emparkments and clearances to give the landscape a more managed appearance.
- Quite an open forest structure due to high demand for resources.
- Savernake Forest was in the private ownership of the Seymour family.
- Earl of Hertford broke the landscape up into areas of different land use – introducing areas of coppice and grazing – previous the bulk of the area was woodland pasture.
- Deer parks were created to relieve pressure on surrounding land.
- This approach didn’t last long.
- Enclosed parks were converted to arable holdings due to demand for crops.
- Woodland clearances.
- Landscaping by Lord Burlington and Capability Brown
- Aesthetic in purpose and also to establish a social dominance over an ambiguous landscape.
- sheep grazing had declined and moved the industrial north
- therefore more areas of Savernake were incorporated into the forest park (as it had become)
- The landscape was now well wooded.
- Coppices had been replaced by high forest of oak, beech and exotic conifers.
1850 – 1939
- Ownership was with the Bruce family who were prone to squabbles and financial difficulties followed.
- This led to the Forestry Commission lease – driven by political support for the increased productivity of rural land.
- large scale woodland clearance for timber
- large and important army base
- ammunitions storage
- Monocultures of oak and beech were created
- Fast growing conifer from Europe and North America
- Majority of the older trees were retained.