Fingle from the wildwood

Last night I gave a talk entitled ‘Fingle from the wildwood – a story of a changing climate, prehistoric people, their descendants and their impacts‘ at the Fingle Bridge Inn in Drewsteignton.

AC- Paul Moody

I tried to weave together the story of the end of the last Ice Age to the present time by looking at the pollen record, the climate, the actions of prehistoric people from the New Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age and the impact of the extinctions of our mammal fauna over the period. I won’t try and reproduce it all here but you can download my Powerpoint presentation here (I have removed the photographs to make the file a more manageable size) – it may not make much sense if you didn’t hear the words that went with it!

I started with this quote from Oliver Rackham “Conservationists do no service to woodland if they try to remake it on the image of what they imagine wildwood was like” – just in case anyone had a brainwave!

I include here a few tables which people might find useful as they catalogue some of the key timescales and events.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 09.24.16

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 09.21.25
The vegetation history of the British Isles

Pollen1A pollen diagram of tree cover from Dartmoor

From Harry Godwin’s book – the History of the Brtish Flora summarising vegetation, cultures, woodland cover and geology

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 09.21.45
Key dates and events in our archaeological history

I then discussed what all this means, highlighted the huge gaps in our knowledge and talked about Frans Vera’s counter-theory that the ‘wildwood’ was in fact a savannah with ‘parkland trees’. A controversial theory but one which does help explain how the wildwood was cleared by a small number of people using stone axes.

I talked about some challenges for the future: tree diseases, the growing number of deer, climate change and people.

I finished the talk with a quote from Fingle Woods’ Spirit of Place statement – which Fingle Woods’ managers can use as a benchmark to determine whether their actions are appropriate.

Over the centuries, people have changed the appearance of the landscape from heathland and wild woods to oak coppice and then to conifer, driven by local and then national need, influenced by fashion and economics. As a result, the gorge has been dressed in different ways. In the coming decades, we want to help the gorge to clothe itself again, reverting to its more natural state. Fingle Wood’s inheritance will help shape its future, making it a place of conservation in a changing environment, and inspiration and enjoyment for everyone – today and for the generations to come.

Thanks to everyone who came and seemed to like what I had to say.

17 thoughts on “Fingle from the wildwood

  1. Pingback: Fingle from the wildwood | The Fingle Woods blog

  2. Really sorry I missed that one. I’ve just finished reading Oliver Rackham’s “Woodlands”. Are you in regular touch with Dr Ralph Fyfe at Plymouth University, who seems to be doing the most up-to-date work on Dartmoor and Exmoor pollen records? I was very impressed by a slide he showed in a recent talk, which was a CGI recreation of a square kilometre of northern Dartmoor in the Bronze Age.

  3. I am attending for Dartmoor Society and colleague of Edmund.. Would you be interested ?
    A panel-led discussion

    When: Wednesday 9th March from 9.45am to 11.15am
    Coffee will be served prior to the meeting from 9.15, and afterwards until 12 noon.

    Where: Bishop Partridge Hall, Church House, London SW1p 3NZ
    Directions can be found here

    Chair: Dame Fiona Reynolds, DBE, Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge

    Panel: David Baldock, Executive Director, Institute for European Environmental Policy

    The Lord Callanan

    Caroline Lucas MP

    Edmund Marriage

    Angela Smith MP

    Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP

    WWF-UK, the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts have commissioned a report from the IEEP into the environmental implications of a potential UK withdrawal from the European Union. This report highlights both the environmental benefits gained through the UK’s membership of the EU as well as the sectors where environmental challenges remain. It also considers the implications of some of the leading scenarios for a UK outside the EU. By recognising the strengths and areas of concern we hope to challenge both the ‘in’ and ‘out’ sides of the debate to discuss their environmental plans for the UK’s future.

    IEEP’s Executive Director David Baldock will present the important findings of the report, which will be followed by a panel debate about the implications of the EU Referendum with Q&As from the audience. We do hope you will join us for what promises to be a lively session.

    Whatever the outcome of the Referendum, our challenge is to safeguard our wildlife and the healthy environment on which we all depend.

    RSVP to Lorna Scott

  4. It was a fascinating and thought-provoking talk. My only criticism is that it was not nearly long enough – there were so many topics raised.

  5. Pingback: Wistman’s Wood in the rain – A Dartmoor and Devon blog

  6. Pingback: Fingle from the wildwood – Fingle Woods

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