The Vikings are coming…….to Sherwood Pines!

Dark Age Vikings return to Sherwood Forest.

Members of local group Conroi de Vey on the Norse street.

Once that would have sent a shiver down the spine, but on the 18 and 19 May 2013 it is an invitation to see history brought back to life when Dark Age Vikings return to Sherwood Forest.

The Forestry Commission and Friends of Thynghowe are hosting a first ever re-enactment weekend when the UK’s leading living history group Regia Anglorum set up a Viking camp in 1,200 hectare Sherwood Pines Forest Park, near Clipstone, Notts.

The historical re-enactors, led by the local group Conroi de Vey, will demonstrate combat, weaving, cooking and crafts and fill the beauty-spot with smells, sights and sounds not seen locally for over 1,000 years.

The region’s Viking story is unfolding at a quickening pace.

The event has been spurred by the discovery of a remarkable Viking site called Thynghowe in the nearby Birklands area of Sherwood Forest.

The amazing mound came to light through the work of local historians and is one of only a handful of such sites to survive in the British Isles. A ‘thyng’ means a meeting place and Thynghowe was used by Viking warrior farmers who gathered to discuss and settle disputes. It featured a court circle with Jurors and a Law Speaker to tell the waiting crowd the verdicts.

Now using a £50,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund the site and surrounding forest has been surveyed from the air using LiDAR (light detection and ranging) which penetrates the trees and measures the height of the ground surface. Features on the ground can be mapped including those that can’t be seen by the naked eye.

Dark Age Vikings return to Sherwood Forest.

Thorfinn Longva and Frithistan at Thynghowe.

It has revealed that a possible Viking street goes directly to Thynghowe, underlining its importance as a gathering place.  Volunteers from the Friends are working to confirm the find on the ground using surveying equipment and GPS devices bought using Lottery funding.

Lynda Mallett, from the Friends, who discovered Thynghowe with husband Stuart Reddish and John Wood, all from Rainworth, said:

“The story is developing and we are excited by how much information we have been able to gather.  Staging the weekend is a way of showing people who the Vikings were, their costumes and culture and their contribution to our heritage, which we increasingly believe was far greater than readily acknowledged. The Danish Vikings left an indelible stamp on Nottinghamshire, so the re-enactment is a timely reminder of their part in our history.”

Viking raids on England became widespread in the 9th century, first for plunder, but then with families settling areas including Sherwood Forest. Ivor the Boneless fought a battle on the site of Nottingham in 846 and land in the forest was granted to 1,500 Viking militia to create homesteads. They developed a unique system of customary law that was later called the Dane-law. Eventually the area was absorbed by the Norman Conquest, but the linguistic history of the county was altered for ever and many local place names are Scandinavian.

Amy Chandler, from the Forestry Commission, added:

“The weekend will put flesh on the bones of the story by showing people the human side of the Vikings and also re-enacting the kind of disputes which would have been settled at Thynghowe.  Regia Anglorum are famous for the authenticity of their living history and Sherwood provides the perfect setting.”

Thynghowe was recorded  on a 17th century map and its earliest mention so far is 1251 in a Sherwood Forest book. It has been placed on English Heritage’s National Monument Record.  More details at www.thynghowe.org.uk

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Former Miner Brimming With Green Energy For Woodfuel

Dave Sefton – Silvapower

One thing Dave Sefton has never been short of is energy!

When the 50 year old from Barnsley left school it was straight down the local pit as a “ripper”, building tunnels behind the cutting machines which eked away at the coal face.

When the industry contracted he was made redundant and found himself making charcoal at Wentworth Castle, Stainborough, before finally helping to set up a wood chip company in 2004 to fuel a green revolution in South Yorkshire.

Back then local councils and public bodies wanted to install biomass heating installations,  but were unable to get past the first base because there was no fuel supply infrastructure in place to get timber from the woods and into a suitable form for burning.

Despite this the Forestry Commission said that there was massive scope to develop the sector in South Yorkshire, with its long history of using solid fuels like coal and the amount of local woodland which could be brought into management.

So Silvapower was set up to plug the supply gap with the help of the South Yorkshire Forest Partnership, Sheffield City Council, Barnsley Council and South Yorkshire Investment Fund.

Eight years later the company has gone from strength-to-strength and is chalking up new milestones.  Next year it is set to produce 35,000 cubic metres of wood chip to meet rising demand.

“I didn’t intend it that way, but my whole career has been supplying fuel of one kind or another, finally ending up with the oldest fuel of the lot, wood,” said Dave, who was a collier at Barnsley Main and Barrow coal mines.  “More local supplies are needed, but timber is coming on stream.  To produce 35,000 cubic metres of wood chips, we need 10,000 tonnes of timber, which translates into about 25,000 trees. We want to talk to local woodland owners and estates about purchasing timber – we always need more of it and want to build long term relationships. Wood is a growth industry and unlike coal we can keep on growing the stuff. It’s really exciting to be involved in something like this, which is growing fast and also does good for the world”

The Forestry Commission has revealed that 56 wood fuel installations have been installed in South Yorkshire as the move towards more eco-friendly energy generation gathers pace.

Long term oil and gas price increases and climate change mean that experts have dubbed it as one of the fuels of the future.  Such is the local potential that South Yorkshire was chosen for a 200,000 Euro investment under an EU project called Activating Forest Owners to develop the sector and create jobs.

Crispin Thorn, Forestry Commission Area Director for Yorkshire and the North East, said:

“Under-management of our woods has been recognised as a lost opportunity for woodland owners for years.  But there are encouraging signs that owners are putting their woods back to work. Some of the timber being used by Silvapower and other local wood fuel suppliers is coming from places like Greno Woods, near Sheffield, and from woods owned by the Fitzwilliam Estate, near the Strines, west of Bradfield.  Sustainable woodland management where trees are felled and replaced is good for conservation and also taps an increasingly valuable and renewable asset for South Yorkshire. It’s great to see businesses developing and expanding in order to take up this growing opportunity.”

Silvapower was taken over by Forest Fuels last year, but Dave stayed on as Yard Foreman at the main depot in Brierley, near Barnsley, where £1m has been invested in storage facilities, processing machinery and delivery equipment.  Customers include all four councils in South Yorkshire and local schools.

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Barnsley Man Logs On To A Roaring Business Idea

Robert Lodge of Firewood Logs

When Robert Lodge installed a log burning stove in his farmhouse near Tankersley, Barnsley, he could hardly imagine what would happen next.

First the local pub and then other locals asked him to help them find hard to source timber for their own new stoves and fires.

So adept did he become, that an inkling of an idea began to form to diversify his farm business. Five years later, having spent £30,000 on timber processing machinery, 90% of his time is spent on his new timber-based business, rather than in the fields of his 1,000 acre family farm.

And Robert’s order book is bulging.

With a presence on Ebay and Facebook, he’s taken to cyberspace to connect with the soaring number of customers wanting to come home to a real fire.

Robert, 48, explained:

“I never had any intentions of getting into the firewood business, but it really sort of crept up on me.  Initially I just used wood laying around farm for my own needs, but things took off from there.  The number of people installing woodfuel boilers and log fires is really amazing.  That’s partly due to the surge in energy prices making it more attractive, but there’s also a feel good factor looking at an log fire and also using a more eco-friendly fuel.”

Robert Lodge of Firewood Logs

Robert’s success is music to the ears of the Forestry Commission, which believes that woodfuel could be a major growth area for businesses and woodland owners in South Yorkshire.  Stoked by the prospects, Robert recently joined a five day fact finding mission to Austria, organised by the Forestry Commission and South Yorkshire Forest Partnership.  It was funded by a European Union scheme called Activating Forest Owners, which has invested 200,000 Euros over two years into South Yorkshire to boost the woodfuel sector by getting more woods into management.

Robert added:

“Austria is far more advanced than we are and have lots more biomass boilers, but we are moving in their direction as oil prices keep on going up.  The trip made me even more optimistic about the future.  But we need to get more local woodlands producing timber in South Yorkshire.  At the moment most of my supplies come from other parts of the country, especially the Midlands.  But there are lots of neglected woods here that should be put back to work.”

South Yorkshire has 11,465 hectares (28,662 acres) of woodland – over 9% of land area – but forest chiefs estimate that around half remains an untapped resource.  Yorkshire currently produces about 300,000 tonnes of timber each year – over a third of which comes from Forestry Commission woodlands.

Rudie Humphrey, from the Forestry Commission, said:

“Robert’s experience shows the two sides of the story.  Woodfuel is an opportunity to create profitable rural businesses and employment, but we need more raw materials coming out of local woods.  We also had woodland owners on the trip to Austria and the message is getting home.  Our local woods are a big asset for us and well managed can produce economic and conservation gains.”

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The Jolly Bodgers of Sherwood Forest

Craftsman Ian Major at work.

When Ian Major clocks off as a conservationist working in Sherwood Forest, he likes nothing better than to unwind by reaching for a lump of locally grown timber and re-learning the skills of the area’s once famous rustic craftspeople.

Wood turning and furniture making has been in his blood for two decades.

Now together with fellow craftsman and chairmaker, Bryan Eskriett, from Clipstone, he plans to share his love for wood by helping to stage a two-day rustic stool making workshop for beginners on 31 March in the Forestry Commission’s Sherwood Pines Forest Park, near Clipstone, Notts.

Together, Ian and Bryan dub themselves ‘The Jolly Bodgers of Sherwood Forest‘ and stress-busting is how they describe their hobby.

But for both it’s a pastime that also touches on a longer-term vision for ancient Sherwood Forest.

“I spend my working life protecting and encouraging people to cherish Sherwood, but trees are not just for looking at,” said Ian.  “We have a brilliant raw material and wood has been worked for thousands of years.  It would be great to see more local craftspeople using our timber.  Areas like Worksop and Ollerton were once famous chair making areas and the potential remains.  Sometimes we can’t see the wood for the trees and don’t realise timber is a fantastic resource, as well as providing us with a wonderful and historic landscape.”

The pair make chairs and stools and other household items, most of which they give away or use themselves.

“We’ll be teaching people how to make a stool and spurring them to be creative with the design,” he adds.  “Wood, shaving horse, draw knife and mallet, together with practical advice are all you need to get started.  There’s tremendous satisfaction in making something with your own hands and taking it away to use.”

Tools, materials and refreshments will be provided and lunch on Sunday will cooked over a camp fire.  You can also spend the night in the woods with tents and sleeping bag and enjoy breakfast cooked in wood-fired clay oven.

Booking is essential.  Contact Karina Thornton on 01623 821459, email  karina.thornton@forestry.gov.uk.  The cost is £85, or £110 if you stay the night.

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Santa Moving With The Times!

High Speed Santa!

Father Christmas will leave his reindeers in Lapland and take to a Segway to pay a call on Sherwood Pines Forest Park!

Roving Santa will rev-up on his dream machine to help deliver more fresh Christmas trees to the beauty spot’s popular Forestry Commission sales point, near Clipstone, Notts.

Segways – invented in the USA and described as self-balancing two wheeled electric transportation machines – have been touted as the future of green commuting.

In spring they will make their debut in the 1,200 hectare (3,000 acre) forest park when Go-Ape offers them for hire to visitors for woodland safaris. Chris Bray, Forestry Commission Recreation Manager, said:

“The Go-Ape guys wanted to get in a bit of practice so kindly offered to help us move Christmas trees around the sales area, getting into the mood by dressing as Santa. Segways are a brilliant way of exploring the forest and this will be a terrific new attraction next year.”

Christmas tree sales run daily in Sherwood Pines until 23 December from 9am to 3.30pm.

Thousands of pines, fir and spruce are up for grabs, but an on-going national shortage of Christmas trees means revellers are being urged to buy early to get the best of the crop.

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Poetic Journey Around Ancient Sherwood Forest

Poet Dave looks for inspiration

A rambling poet is re-tracing an epic journey last made 350 years ago around the ancient boundaries of Sherwood Forest.

Dave Wood, 45, has won National Lottery/Arts Council England funding to encourage people to wax lyrical during a 90 mile trek taking in leafy glades and once forested areas.

The northern section of his odyssey will take him from south of Worksop and through Clumber Park towards Ollerton.

Now to celebrate International Year of the Forest on 11 September he’ll make a detour to Sherwood Pines Forest Park, near Edwinstowe, to take part in a Forestry Commission free Discovery Day.

There he will inspire folk to contribute a poetic line and combine everyone’s creative ideas into a modern day saga of Sherwood Forest.

Dave explained:

“The perambulation of Sherwood Forest was last carried out in 1662 by officials to check the boundary was being respected and ensure venison were not being taken.  I want to replicate the original journey as far as possible and see how the landscape has changed and the threats posed to the remaining ancient woodland.  I’m doing the walk in sections and the idea is to inspire and talk to people about the environment, see what it means to them and host creative workshops.  Most of the walking should be done by Guy Fawkes Night and I aim to produce the results in the New Year.  Like any adventure, you never quite know what is going to happen.”

The Sherwood Pines Discovery Day runs between 10am and 4pm.  As well as poetry there’ll be axe racing, Nordic walking, bike rides, wildlife displays, a mass tree hug and shelter building – all to celebrate the wonder of the woods.

Pam Warhurst, Forestry Commission Chair, said:

“We have fantastic woodlands and we want to get everyone involved helping us celebrate in Sherwood Pines.”

More information on 01623 822447, or at www.forestry.gov.uk/EastMidlands

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