The Forest of Bradford have been awarded £49,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The focus of the project is a semi-natural ancient woodland tucked under the hillside above Silsden village named Swartha Wood.
Silsden has a rich history from the prehistoric to Industrial Revolution. There is a possibility that it has been an important metalworking site throughout all of its occupation. Wood has always been an essential resource for people from the very first settlers, every village would have access to a managed area of woodland just like they had common grazing land. The evidence for this can be seen in the archaeological finds in the area e.g. bronze axes and the Silsden Hoard. Silsden also has a history of nail and clog making, perhaps the wood for the clogs came from Swartha?
We know that Swartha is an ancient woodland site from the botanical indicators and some archival research, also that its name is old Germanic, but we don’t know what’s in the wood in terms of archaeology. It is very likely that Swartha has been a continuous resource for Silsden throughout history and we could learn a lot from this.
The project, which is taking place over two years, will try and establish how long Swartha Wood has been there and what it
meant to the industry and lives of residents. We want to involve the Silsden community in investigating the above and we are planning on carrying out various activities in the wood e.g. archaeology, traditional woodland management techniques, walks and talks; also archival research and gathering photos and oral histories relating to Silsden and its industries. The ultimate goal is to conserve the wood for future generations as there are very few of these woods left.
If you are interested in becoming involved in the project in any way, please contact Jen on 01274 487270 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED SO FAR:
Archive Research is ongoing, please see the page under the Swartha Wood tab
Hothfield Junior School Silsden
25/10/12 introduction to the Swartha Wood project for two year 4 classes. The children looked at maps of the area, locating where they lived, where the wood is and how to use map symbols. They learned about the woodland habitat.
19/11/12 oral history session for Mr Bolland’s year 3 class. Oral historian and professional interviewer, Tracy Craggs, taught the children interviewing techniques which they then used on 7 volunteers from the Silsden History Society. A great session!
6/9/12 Jen did an introduction to Swartha Wood for the Silsden Civic Society in the town’s Methodist Church Hall, 51 people attended.
29/10/12 Ian and Jen went along to the Silsden History Society’s monthly meeting to talk about the project and enlist volunteers!
8/9/12 Keighley Heritage Day. Caroline Brown organised an event in Keighley Library as part of the Heritage Day. The Swartha Wood stand was very well attended and it was an enjoyable day.
In the Woods
21/8/12 A group of ten 16/17 year olds came to Swartha Wood as part of their summer project NCS360, Linking With Young People. They produced sticks for charcoal making and cleared some undergrowth.
26/9/12 The Forest of Bradford’s Wednesday Volunteer group made steps into a banking and cleared some invasive plant species.
7/12/12 Staff from Santander and Rod Fall from Silsden Civic Society came to Swartha Wood on a freezing day and learned drystone walling and coppicing. With help from the professionals they removed the wobbly stile and made an attractive and accessible entrance to the woods.
More work has recently been done to improve the paths, particularly drainage.
Working with the Silsden History Group, the Swartha Wood project brought in oral historian/professional interviewer Tracy Craggs to record some of the town’s oldest residents. They reminisced about their childhoods and careers, with memories going back to the 1920′s and 30′s. Many remember playing in Swartha Wood and also that much timber was removed during the war. A 19 year old Linguistics student from Leeds University, with an interest in dialect, helped out at the event at Silsden Methodist Church. More work will be done over the next few months on this fascinating oral history project.
Dawn Chorus at Swartha
Five of us managed to get up early to record the birdlife in and around the woods. It was well worth the effort, warm sunshine, peaceful location and plenty of birds (and noisy sheep and lambs)! See list below:
Wren Pheasant Woodpigeon Blue Tit Blackbird Treecreeper
Chaffinch Rook Jay Robin Great Tit Song Thrush
Blackcap Chiffchaff Willow Warbler Starling Curlew (in the field)
Swallow (in the farm) Goldfinch (in a tree near the farm)
We also found a Tawny Owl feather just over the wall by the entrance to the woods. We will be back to record the birds in the evening soon, to prove the owls are there! It was also suggested that we record the dawn chorus again - even earlier next time…………….
Please let us know if you can add to the Swartha list.
See news for upcoming events….Monday 27th May – Guided walk
Volunteers at Swartha Entrance repairs
Spoon making, Swartha