Last week the Thursday team visited Harding’s Rookery adjacent to the Mansion to clean up the wood, and then look for a long lost Wild Service tree. In the 1800’s all dead trees and fallen branches (brash) would have been cleared out, to enhance the look of the Park – labour was cheap and plentiful in those days.
The aristocratic visitors arriving in their horse-drawn carriages would have been delighted with the prospect of the new Mansion in the open parkland, having emerged from the wooded access routes. At first the main access points were from Thunderdell Lodge in the west, and Nettleden Lodge in the south coming through Golden Valley. The road from Berkhamsted was not cut until sometime after 1838 when the railways arrived.
The policy of the N. T. today is to leave all fallen timber to rot in the woods, but not in the parkland, so the brash was collected from the roadside area and moved back out of sight, improving the look for modern day travellers.
The larger beech trees in the wood have graffiti marks, which were branded on them some one hundred years ago and are still visible today. Apparently when the Estate was broken up and sold off around 1925, specimens of standing timber were marked with a number for sale and the ones which did not make the auction are still showing their mark. Part of one of the numbers has been lost in the fold of the bark!
The Wild Service tree proved to be as elusive as ever – no sign so far.