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What's in a name?

Parts of the wood have been given names for hundreds of years.

Fineshade Wood is not huge, but it is just about large enough to get lost in, and if you want to refer to particular tracks or sections it helps to have a name. Everyone who has lived, worked or visited the wood regularly over hundreds if not thousands of years must have made up names for the tracks they used or the areas that they coppiced or hunted.

The process of naming continues today. When we first moved into Fineshade 26 years ago we created informal names for some of the tracks and we still use these names today. We have our own rather prosaic names such the Gladey Path and the Boring Track. There’s the Adder Track and the Glow Worm path where we first saw these particular Fineshade Residents. There’s the Study Plot – a clear-felled area where we used to record the number and location of singing Grasshopper Warblers year after year.

We decided to christen the huge beech tree on the eastern edge of the wood the Cathedral Tree because walking in the silence under its huge arched branches seemed a similar experience to entering a cathedral. (Photo left) Now, that tree must more frequently be visited by residents of King’s Cliffe who no doubt have their own name for it. We’d love to know how it’s known there.

We still refer to the Secret Place, originally an open area in the middle of a huge conifer block where we never saw another soul. The conifers have been cleared, the area is now regularly visited but it still has something special about it. However, you’ll not be surprised to know that I’m not going to reveal where our Secret Place is!

Of course the Forestry Commission needs to refer to sections of the wood too – but they tend to use compartment numbers rather than actual names. When they set out new walking tracks leading from the Visitor Centre they came up with new names. Smelters Walk refers to the iron-stone history of the site and takes you to historical locations with interpretations along the way. The Dales Wood Walk does indeed take you to Dales Wood but the Mill Wood Trail does seem a misnomer.

Some of the names made up and used by people centuries ago are preserved in the wonderful Ordnance Survey maps. The current 1:25000 Explorer map includes the following names for northern sections of Fineshade Wood:

  • North Spinney (Actually north of King’s Cliffe rather than Fineshade)

  • Long Spinney (How long was it I wonder?)

  • Cunnington’s Spinney (Who was Cunnington?)

  • Dumb Bob Spinney (What can I say?)

  • Peter’s Nook (Nice to have a nook named after you)

  • Dales Wood (Dale … someone’s name or a geographic feature?)

  • The Gullet (There are two streams that disappear here)

  • Far Markham’s Wood (Far from where?)

  • Old Sale (Locally “Sale” is quite a common name for woodland compartments)

  • Mill Wood (Was there once a windmill? – a water mill seems unlikely)

One is left wondering how long it is since Cunnington, Peter and the silent Bob worked or lived in these parts of the wood. Further south, in the large section known as Westhay Wood some of the areas are named in relation to King’s Cliffe:

  • Far and Hither Miers

  • Far and Hither Hazelwood

  • Great and Little Watkinson

  • Hollow Wood

  • Stockings

  • Buxton Wood

  • Britain Sale

  • Kit Spinney

Years ago we were shown a map of the wood that pre-dated the Ordnance Survey. On it was marked a track named Justice Riding – the current hard-surfaced track that roughly bisects Fineshade Wood in a direction almost northeast to southwest. On that old map Justice Riding led down to Fineshade Abbey - this was before the railway was constructed in the mid 19th century.

Left: Justice Riding as it is today

At the point where Justice Riding intersected the Duddington-Kingscliffe bridleway was marked Fair Tree. We try to use these historic names to refer to the track and the corner, often wondering about their derivation. Perhaps there was once a significant tree where a regular fair was held, halfway along the old bridleway from Kingscliffe to Duddington. But Justice Riding? Could it have been a route used by the justices of the peace attending court hearings?

Sadly we can’t locate the old map or remember the other names that were marked on it. Does anyone know of the map? Indeed can you help answer any of the questions above? We are sure there are local historians who will have researched the history of the area and we’d be delighted to publish anything that you can share with us.

We’d encourage everyone to use these old names as a means of preserving the historical heritage of the wood – but also we’d like to know of any other names that you’ve made up. Who knows, perhaps in a hundred years the name you use now will appear on the Ordnance Survey Maps of the time.

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