In Hampshire there is a wealth of archaeological evidence within and beneath our woodlands. Nearly every ancient semi natural woodland will retain some archaeological evidence. Very often this will take the form of features related to its past history of woodland management such as wood banks, saw pits and charcoal hearths.
Numerous others contain remarkably well preserved archaeological features of all types and periods from burial mounds to Roman villas, long abandoned field systems to WWII nissan huts. Within Hampshire alone 264 Scheduled Ancient Monuments are found in woodland sites. One of the reasons for the great archaeological interest within ancient woodlands is that they have often provided a refuge from the impacts of deep ploughing.
Many woods also contain veteran trees.These are a relic of past land use but are now extremely valuable for both their nature conservation and cultural value. Woodlands with a high density of these veteran trees are often in areas that were previously old wood pasture but have become woodland through lack of traditional management.
Archaeological evidence within a wood is part of the intrinsic value and character of the woodland. Not only is it an important historical resource through which the activities of past generations can be interpreted, but it can also be enjoyed and appreciated as part of the woodlands cultural, educational and recreation value. As such archaeological remains should be cherished and managed and should not be needlessly or thoughtlessly damaged. Scheduled monuments are protected by law and it is and offence to carry out work on such sites without prior consent
Known archaeological features within woodland should be highlighted within the woods management plan, to ensure that that any management operations take their presence into account. The Forestry Commission have produced guidelines for the management of archaeological features within woodlands
The Archaeology and Historic Buildings Record (AHBR), maintained by Hampshire County Council, is an index to the known sites, monuments and designed landscapes which make up the historic environment of Hampshire.
Where there is no record of archaeology within a woodland but evidence to suggest archaeological features may exist, either through direct physical evidence at the site or high concentrations of known features in the surrounding landscape, then owners and site managers can apply for a Woodland Assessment Grant (WAG) to assess the site in terms of its archaeology.
Woodland Improvement Grants (WIG) may also be available to help towards the costs of conserving archaeological features in woodlands as well as interpreting significant archaeological features to the public.
As well as direct archaeological evidence within woodlands, woodlands are also a significant part of the many historical landscapes that we have today. Historic Landscape Assessment (HLA) seeks to identify and as far as possible understand the historic development of today's landscape. It places emphasis on the contribution that past historic processes make to the character of the landscape as a whole, not just selected 'special sites', and can contribute to a wider landscape assessment. The Historic Landscape site provides access to the results of a rapid, countrywide assessment of the historic character of the Hampshire landscape.
Other sources of information on woodland archaeology,historic environment and veteran trees are provided on the Forest Research website.