Dig discovers site of important lost farm at Brede High Woods

Big Dig excavations SUS-150518-130254001
Big Dig excavations SUS-150518-130254001

New walks will allow people to trace the site of vanished farm buildings at Brede High Woods.

Excavations and archive research have enabled the Woodland Trust to reimagine the farmhouse and farm buildings which existed at Brede High Farm until their demolition in the 1930s. Some of the buildings dated back to the 17th Century.

The walks have been created using information gathered during three years of archaeological surveys on site funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), known as ‘The Big Dig’.

Excavations were also undertaken at a range of sites, from a Roman iron working site deep in the woods to a 20th century saw mill. Pottery at the iron working site pushed back the earliest known date of human activity in the woods to the first century AD.

Woodland Trust site manager Dave Bonsall said: “By following the way-marked paths you will discover what people were doing in Brede High Woods from medieval times to the 1930s.

“Thanks to funding from the HLF we’ve been able to learn a huge amount about the history of the woods, which we hope visitors will find of interest.”

The walks cover areas of the wood which were completely different in earlier centuries, demonstrating how human activity changed the shape and nature of the woodland – it is estimated that iron started to be produced on site from Roman times, and continued until the 18th century.

The figure of eight trail is clearly signposted and easy to follow; the entire trail will take approximately one hour to navigate. Any feedback is welcome.

As well as the Heritage Lottery Fund, work at Brede High Woods is also funded by the Forestry Commission, Natural England, The Tubney Charitable Trust, SITA Trust, Veolia Environmental Trust and many generous supporters and donors.

At 647 acres, Brede High Woods is one of the largest sites owned by the Woodland Trust in England and is a mosaic of ancient and secondary woodland, both broadleaved and conifer; heathland; coppice; and small ponds, springs and streams.

Once part of the Weald’s iron smelting industry, the historical influence is present throughout the site today. As well as remnants of former fields and orchards, there are saucer-shaped bell pits, boundary banks, a sunken lane, and a 33 feet high feature called ‘Chequer Tree Cliff’ where clay was once extracted - all fascinating evidence of centuries of human activity.

Find out more about Brede High Woods and download a walk leaflet at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/brede.