Sheffield’s Heritage Woodlands

DSCF3280There are around 175 woodlands in Sheffield. Some go back to pre-Roman times. Probably the reason why they have not gone the way of many ancient woodlands is twofold. Some are in areas that are not useful for any other purpose but the main reason for there being so many is also the reason for the expansion of metalworking in the area.  They were needed as fuel to make Iron and Steel and sometimes even used as part of the process.

What it has left Sheffield with is a great resource both Archaeologically Botanically  and Environmentally.  Many of the woodlands have been the source of academic study. From the none academic point of view there is still a lot that can be seen and appreciated.  I have made up a list of some of Sheffield’s ancient and significant woodlands. I don’t know all these woods but hope to in the future. Perhaps someone can have a look and give a review?


Ecclesall Woods

Ecclesall Woods is an area of woodland in south-west Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, between Abbeydale Road South and Ecclesall. The woods also contain a number of important prehistoric and early historic monuments. There’s also a wealth of other heritage features, such as charcoal heaths, relating directly back to the wood’s past management for timber and other wood products.


Bowden Housteads Woods are situated between Darnall and Handsworth, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. the woods are encircled by Sheffield Outer Ring Road, Sheffield Parkway and Handsworth Road. In order to be classed as an ancient woodland, an area must have been continuously wooded since at least 1600. There is clear documentary and other evidence that Bowden Housteads Wood has been wooded for far longer than this. he earliest documentary reference to the wood dates from 1332 when it was referred to as Baldwynhousted in an property inventory compiled following the death of Thomas de Furnival, Lord of Hallam. Baldwyn is an Anglo-Saxon personal name; hous means house; and sted has a variety of meanings, including a place occupied by a farm or other building. As a result, it is presumed that the woodland is named after a nearby farm, tenanted or owned by someone named Baldwyn.

Gleadless Valley Woodland

There are seven Heritage Woodlands in the Gleadless Valley, which lies only 2 miles south-east of Sheffield city centre. Until its development as a residential district in the 1950’s and 60’s, this was a rural area consisting of hedge-lined fields, woodlands and scattered trees. The valley is still remarkable for the way in which a network of open spaces has been retained, both within the development, and between it and neighbouring built-up areas.


Greno Wood

North of Grenoside, S35 8RS  Map reference  SK 325 950 

Greno Woods is a large and beautiful reserve covering 178 hectares, next to the residential areas of Grenoside, Ecclesfield and Chapeltown. There is evidence that Greno Woods existed as early as 1600AD and has played a critical role in the local economy ever since.


These four small blocks of woodland are located 4 kilometres north of Sheffield city centre and just to the north of the Shirecliffe area of the city. The blocks of woodland, which lie on a prominent ridge overlooking the Don Valley, are divided by roads and paths, including Herries Road which runs through the middle of the site.  Scraith Wood and Rawson Spring were at one time part of Park Wood, most of which was removed for the mining of stone, ganister and clay. Both woodlands are recorded in documents dating from 1600 and 1637, making them ancient woodlands, in other words, woods that have been in existence for at least the last 400 years. The early name for Scraith Wood was Scryhcrest. ‘Scryh’ means scree, referring to the steep slope on which the woodland lies. The word ‘Spring’ in the name of Rawson Spring Wood tells us that this woodland was managed by coppicing, probably to produce charcoal for the early iron and steel industry.  (Access described as poor)

Shirtcliff Woods

Shirtcliff Wood lies in the Shirtcliff valley on the northern edge of Woodhouse, nearly 7 kilometres east of the centre of Sheffield. Part of the wood is crossed by the Shirtcliff Brook. Although the wood first appears on a map dating from as late as 1802, historical documents suggest that it was managed for charcoal in the Middle Ages by the Monks of Kirkstead Abbey as part of the Brainley Hall Estate.


These two separate but nearby woodlands are located in the Fir Vale area of Sheffield, roughly 3 kilometres north of the city centre and near to the Northern General Hospital. Roe Wood, which is the northernmost of the two woodlands is also the largest. With the adjoining area of Crabtree Ponds this area represents the most important wildlife reservoir in North Sheffield.
The woodlands are first recorded as part of continuous block of woodland known as ‘Cockshutt Rowe’ in a document dating from around 1600 which listed the Earl of Shrewsbury’s coppice woodlands. This clearly shows Roe and Little Roe Woods to be ancient woodland, meaning that they have been in existence for at least the last 400 years. A ‘cockshot’ was a term used to refer to an opening cut through a wood to allow gamebirds such as woodcock to be caught in nets.

Wincobank Wood

Wincobank Wood lies on the west-facing slope of the Wincobank ridge, which creates a most striking landscape feature, dominating the Don Valley. It is this hill which rises so prominently behind Meadowhall shopping centre. The woodland provides a significant area of open space in an otherwise heavily urbanised area, just over 4 kilometres north-east of the centre of Sheffield.

A study of the place names associated with Wincobank reveals much about the character of the place at different times. The word’ Winc’ is thought to refer to a Saxon personal name, Wineca. The earliest written usage of this name dates from 1345 when it was referred to as ‘Winckley’ meaning ‘Wineca’s forest clearing’, giving a clear indication of the wooded nature of the surroundings. In 1442, however, a document refers to the site as ‘Wincowe’, a name which meant ‘Wineca’s mound’, possibly harking back to the hill fort itself.

By Tudor times the name by which we know the hill was already fixed for there is a surviving document dated 1574 which names the farmstead on the hill ‘Le Wynkeabanke’. It was around this time that we have the first reference to the management of the woodland itself. The wood formed part of the extensive estates of the Earls of Shrewsbury, the Lords of the Manor of Hallamshire


Wheata Woods is a 53 hectare heritage woodland area, situated 8km (5 miles) north west of Sheffield.  It is made up of the four contiguous woodlands comprising: Woodfield Spring, Birkin Royd, Prior Royd and Wheata Woods.

The site of an agricultural settlement dating from the Romano-British period (1st to 4th century A.D.) has been identified in Wheata Wood. This comprises stone banks and other features which indicate field boundaries and possibly huts. These remains extend into surrounding fields and possibly also into upper parts of Prior Royd. It is highly likely that part of the area was cleared at this time, both for cultivation and also because the inhabitants of the site would not want to be vulnerable to attackers creeping up on them through woodland. Some woodland though remained in the vicinity and this was exploited for wood and timber as well as being used for the grazing of domestic animals.

Wooley Wood

Woolley Wood is located approximately one kilometre north of Meadowhall Shopping Centre and 6 kilometres north-east of the centre of Sheffield, between the Shiregreen and Wincobank areas of the city. It is easily accessible both by car and public transport. The upper edge lies adjacent to Concord Park and a good network of footpaths runs throughout the wood.

Woolley Wood has been the source of a number of interesting archaeological finds including the remains of a Bronze Age axe or hammer and a coin and sherds of pottery dating from Romano-British times.

Recent archaeological surveys as part of the ‘Fuelling a Revolution’ programme have revealed a number of features relating to the past management of the wood, including a possible medieval boundary ditch, an old drystone wall, and platforms associated with charcoal burning. A number of quarries, pits and hollows found within the wood are associated with the search for coal and other minerals. The sandstones underlying the wood are fine-grained and suitable for the production of grindstones,



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  1. Pingback: 2.3.1 + 7.1.2 primary and secondary research portfolio – willkearns

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