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We would like to thank all those who have given support to this project from the local community, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, the Forestry Commission, the Freshwater Habitats Trust, Alvecote and Shuttington Parish Council, Maurice Arnold (sadly now passed away), and all the contractors and friends, family and volunteers who have worked on the site and given us advice and support.

We are developing Alvecote Wood according to our Woodland Management Plan that has been agreed with and grant-aided by the Forestry Commission under the English Woodland Grant Scheme.

Are you another woodland owner needing advice? Would you like to read our Tree Safety Policy?

The Uses of Alvecote Wood

Old building and entrance at Alvecote Wood

Little is known about the use of Alvecote Wood in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. What we have been able to deduce has been from sequential changes on old OS maps, from local residents, a chance encounter with the grandson of a shepherd who lived on the site in the 1920s, and a small book entitled "The History of Alvecote".

What is Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland?

Ancient woodland is an area that has been wooded since at least 1600. However, it is known that land adjacent to Parish boundaries tends to remain less disturbed or changed in use than land closer to the centre of Parishes. As Alvecote Wood is on the Parish boundary it is possible that it has been woodland for longer than 400 years.

Ancient semi-natural woodland (ASNW) means that it has not been felled and planted - trees are allowed to grow and regenerate naturally, although the wood may have been managed by coppicing or other sustainable management techniques. However it has not been clear felled and re-planted.

A great deal of further information is available on the Woodland Trust web site.

Relation to other local sites

If you view the site on Google Earth, you can see that it is bounded almost completely by arable land. To the north is a horse stud and industrial units, and at the eastern tip is the Coventry Canal. Across the Coventry Canal are Alvecote Pools and Pooley Fields SSSIs and Pooley Country Park. These sites are not ASNW, but are areas of regeneration on sites of coal mining and associated subsidence. Further to the North, in the bend of the Coventry Canal lies Alvecote Priory, a 12th Century Benedictine Priory. Alvecote Village lies further north again, across the West Coast Mainline railway. South of the railway lies Alvecote Marina built on the site of the former Tamworth Colliery. Samuel Barlow's pub is named after the original coal merchant.

The surrounding area has been arable land since the first OS map was available in 1886. The estate of Alvecote Priory was particularly associated with sheep farming from the time the monks were in residence (12th Century) through to when the Roby family left in 1874. The main local industry was coal mining, with collieries in Amington (along with a brickworks), Pooley Hall, Tamworth Colliery (situated close to Alvecote Village), Glascote (along with a terracotta works), Birchmoor, and disused collieries at Dumolo's Lane and Kettlebrook.

Colliery railways led from engine sheds in Glascote Heath to the sidings at Amington, close to the Coventry Canal and main railway line. Old sand pits lay to the north of Alvecote Wood in the area that now forms part of Alvecote Stud. When digging our drainage ditches and ponds in 2009, small seams of coal were found under the topsoil at Alvecote Wood and we know that there is still deep coal in the area.

Alvecote and Shuttington Parish Council have a web site with a lot of local pictures and information here.

Archaeology and Pre-History

Warwickshire Museum has four records of finds in the grid square covering Alvecote Wood, although one of these is probably a duplicate. Some time before 1763, a flint arrowhead was located at Alvecote Wood, dating from the Bronze Age. In 1763, an urn full of copper coins of the Roman era was located in the area, but it is not clear whether this was in Alvecote Wood, nor what has happened to this find. In 1850, another Roman coin hoard was found and donated to Tamworth Natural History Society in 1871, but this find has since been reported as lost. A further find in 1871 of an urn containing 800 small Roman copper coins was made, and some of these were also donated to Tamworth Natural History Society, but are now also lost.

It is not completely clear whether these finds were made within the current boundary of Alvecote Wood, or in the larger wooded area that was present at the time of the finds, which may have been related to excavations for the Coventry Canal (which opened in 1790) and the railway (construction of which started in 1845).

Domesday to 19th Century

The Domesday entry for Shuttington records several hides of land in the Hundred of Coleshill held by tenants of the Count of Meulan. It is not clear which of these parcels of land relate to Alvecote Wood, but woodland is recorded in the entry for these tenancies of land in Shuttington, along with a mill, which is probably Alvecote Mill. The recorded woodland was 1/2 league long (12 furlongs) and 6 furlongs wide, and therefore much larger than the current Alvecote Wood.

By 1651, Alvecote Wood had shrunk to 110 acres . By 1781 the total wood area had shrunk to 50 acres. The wooded area is known to have extended across Robey's Lane, a clue being the existence of "Woodhouse Farm" which was likely to have been within a wooded area, now arable fields. The local farm was based at Alvecote Priory, leased by the Robys from the Earl of Essex until 1874. By 1896, and possibly before this, the wood had assumed its current boundaries.

In 1968, Edden and Jones, in their book "The History of Alvecote" mentioned that the current Alvecote Wood, known as "The Piggery" is 5 acres, but in fact that represents only part of the current wood and it seems that the 11 acres of Alvecote Wood have remained unchanged in size or profile since at least 1896. The current wood almost certainly represents a remnant of the original ancient woodland recorded in the Domesday Book, and gradually reduced in size by farming activities in the surrounding area.

1890 to World War 2

Old concrete base at Alvecote Wood

The old building and concrete base
correspond to buldings that were here
during the 1920s

Alvecote Wood is marked with boundaries as at the present day on the map of 1886, although no buildings are present. It is marked as woodland, and there is one internal division shown. By 1904 the internal division had gone, but buildings did not appear until the 1924 map, at which time buildings were present on the site at locations corresponding to the existing derelict concrete block building near the old entrance, and the old concrete base to the west of that building. A pond has also appeared on the map at this time toward the south-west corner of the wood - it is still marked today but no longer exists, other than as a slightly waterlogged patch that dries out almost completely in summer.

In 1938 the buildings and pond appeared unchanged on the map, but by 1939, the larger long building corresponding to the concrete base had disappeared - in its place was a smaller building or partial building at the eastern end of the concrete base, roughly where our new steel building is now.

We do not know exactly what these buildings were used for. The concrete base had railway tracks laid in the northern edge. Various theories have been put forward including that this was a trackway to allow animals to be fed in a barn. We had assumed that this would be pigs because local residents still call the wood "The Piggery", but a chance encounter with a gentleman passing the site revealed that he is the grandson of a shepherd who lived in the derelict building probably during the 1920s. It seems most likely that the large building that existed in the 1920s but had disappeared by World War 2 was therefore a sheep shed and prior to its use for grazing pigs, the wood had also been used for sheep grazing.

When clearing barbed-wire from the site, we certainly encountered some fencing of at least early 20th Century vintage, which suggests that it was used to retain animals at this time.

Post-war to 1990s

Very little is known about the use of the site during this time. We have been told that in the 1960s and 1970s, the site was used for keeping pigs, and a pig-keeper lived in the now-derelict building. It is still known as "The Piggery" by some local residents.

A booklet on the wildlife of the area entitled "North Warwickshire Flora and Fauna" published in 1985 and written by George and Maurice Arnold commented on the virtual absence of undergrowth due to grazing by horses - a complete contrast to the woods today!

We also know that when the site was used for keeping horses the now-derelict dwelling building was used as a stable. We have spoken to people who kept horses on site, and Les Armstrong used to shoe horses there.

1990s to present day

In 1988 the land was sold to a local resident and used for grazing and breeding rare-breed goats. In 1998 the land was sold to some pension trustees, and a lease prepared allowing its use for grazing of livestock, but we do not think this option was ever taken up. The land has certainly remained un-grazed for at least 10 years, and has had relatively little management for 20+ years. We purchased Alvecote Wood in 2007, and are managing it as a wildlife site.

If you know of any history relating to Alvecote Wood we'd love to hear from you - so please contact us!