With a record number of Thursday volunteers on hand, including three new members, two labour intensive tasks were undertaken.
As Christmas fast approaches it is time to gather in the festive decorations for the Visitor Centre, from the Estate – lots of evergreens. The volunteers collected “silver” pine which had been planted as an ornamental tree, the native holly, and cherry laurel. The laurel shrub was planted on the Estate in Victorian times when it provided cover for the game birds before the shooting season. Large shooting parties gathered at Ashridge requiring numerous game-keepers and beaters. The head game-keeper lived in Old Copse Lodge. He was a stern operator and wore his brass Brownlow buttons with pride. The native holly is quite abundant around Aldbury common, some specimens dating back hundreds of years when it was harvested by the commoners and drovers as fodder for their cattle! It is very nutritious and a useful food source during the Winter time.
The larger group of some thirty volunteers descended on Dockey Wood to clear up the mess (brash), left after the foresters had done their tree felling. Part of the plantation was thinned out after some fifty years to allow remaining oaks to flourish. Ashridge foresters took out the larch trees expecting to sell the timber for firewood, with the oak trunks going for building work. The problem remained as what to do with the branches, or brash as it is known – so that’s where the volunteers came in, but more on that next time…..
Dockey Wood has probably always been a plantation dating back to at least 1762 when it was smaller than today. So with a lineage of four hundred years it can be classed as an ancient wood. The earlier oaks would undoubtedly have been used for building the English warships or used locally for timber buildings.