There are many archaeological features in the woodland which may not be immediately obvious to the casual walker. When we know where to look they give us a glimpse into the history of Carpenters Wood going back, in some cases, to medieval times.
Carpenters Wood, which is at least 400 years old, contains many features of historical and archaeological interest which give it its particular character and make it special.
The Ancient Bridleway – ‘The Chiltern Way’:
This Bridleway goes all the way along the farm track from Farm Road and Blacketts Wood Drive, into the Wood at the farm gate, down through the Wood to the Barrel Arch, and on up the hill to the A404 and to Chenies. This path probably dates back to the 1600’s and would have been the path linking Chenies Manor with Shire Lane and beyond, used to bring live-stock or wood-fuel up and down the hills and providing a historic link between Chenies and Churlswood (Chorleywood) villages.
Banks and Ditches:
Carpenters Wood has a number of banks and ditches which cross the Woods at various points. These almost certainly demarcated ownership of different sections of the Wood and some probably go back to Saxon Charter boundaries – a sample of puddingstone was identified recently in Carpenters Wood. Banks and ditches are best seen in early Spring when the fallen leaves have died down but they can be seen in many places as hard raised areas with soft, sometimes quite deep, ditches running alongside them. They are usually most visible on the boundary of woods with a deep ditch running alongside the outside of the bank. Part of one of these banks and ditches was recently discovered the Friends Group as you enter Carpenters Wood at the Whitelands Avenue entrance, running parallel to the main footpath and the line of houses on Whitelands Avenue..
Saw pits occur where tall trees were felled and cut into planks and beams in situ, rather than being transported out of the wood whole. They are usually oval in shape, about 4 metres long by 2 metres wide, and normally lie along the contour, with all the excavated material from the pit piled on the downhill side to make a level platform. A wooden frame, constructed over the pit, held the log while two men sawed the log using a two handled saw. Saw pits are quite rare in other parts of the country, and probably occur particularly in the Chilterns because the chalk allows rain water to drain away keeping the pits dry.
Beech trees were often more valuable than the surrounding agricultural land, and for 250 years skilled woodsmen or Bodgers turned chairlegs, spindles and other products on simple but effective pole lathes out in the woods. This was a cottage industry at the start of the 18th century but by the 19th century many factories existed around High Wycombe which relied on these products from the bodgers. In 1920 Ercol set up its factory in High Wycombe and bought most of its Beech from the Chilterns.
There are two large quarries in Carpenters Wood both at least 200 years old. One is situated along the footpath from the Whitelands Avenue entrance to the barrel arch, and the other can be found at the top end of Hillas Wood along Boundary Walk. Both quarries are substantial and deep with steep sides although they are now covered with vegetation and trees have grown up from their depths. However, these can still be easily seen and boundary ditches and banks can be identified around their perimeters. These quarries were almost certainly used to extract chalk for liming the local fields to improve the soil. There is a long history in the Chilterns of digging holes for clay, chalk, pebbles and sand. These materials were used for brick and tile making in the area – brickworks and decorative tile works have existed in the Chilterns for hundreds of years.
Hornbeam Stub Hedges:
Hornbeam Stub Hedges are a special feature of woodland edges in the Chilterns. In Carpenters Wood we have some of the best examples of these hornbeam hedges particularly along the edge of the horse fields down from the farm gate entrance (Field View). These are probably at least 200 years old but require very special management.
At present some of these hedges may be threatened by being too close to the horses and being subject to ‘nibbling’. However, removal of dense holly from around these hedges by the Friends Group will have improved their light and helped them to grow.