|Walkidons Way at the corner of Rockham Wood|
Walkidons Way is a rare example in our locality of a green lane - most of the rest having been tarmacked. It is a public access route and runs between Hogsbrook Farm at its north-western end and Woodbury Common at Woodbury Park to the south-east. Along the way it passes beside Rockham Wood - a (private) ancient wood that is a designated County Wildlife Site.
A green lane can be defined as an un-metalled track with field boundaries on either side. These boundaries may be banks, hedges or woodland edges, often with features such as ditches - all of which can be seen along the length of Walkidons Way. The hedges and woodland edges here are particularly rich in examples of hedge-laying and coppicing of great age, and possibly also an ancient boundary tree.
In terms of bio-diversity, green lanes are mini-landscapes with their own micro-climate and ecology, due to the combination of the track and its boundary features. They may be more botanically species-rich than a single hedge, may act as wildlife corridors, and their sheltered conditions are of great importance, for example, to butterfly populations.
In one such Charter, the track is described as passing from 'Gryndell land' to Geoffery Hoggesbroc's house (confusingly, this is not the present Hogsbrook Farm, but the site of the house known as Lyndhayne). Part of this section of the way is now private. From here it climbed to Woodbury Common and made straight for the old fire-beacon, named in the Charter as 'Virbecna' - we love these old spellings!
The former agricultural land here has been much altered for leisure use, and the lane now passes between golf courses at the higher end, and fishing lakes lower down, which were created during the 1990s. The Woodbury Park complex, which opened in 1995, was a highly controversial development at the time, but has become a generally accepted element of the modern landscape.
The track and its verges are unfortunately suffering degradation from modern vehicular traffic. But the lane is in a better condition than two other nearby green lanes: Moor Lane, at Pilehayes Farm, and Watery Lane leading off Bonds Lane. The latter is still often shown on maps as a lane, but is so 'watery' that it is in fact a watercourse and has been paralleled instead by the field path to Woodbury. By contrast, Walkidons Way offers a walk of very different character to that of most of our local lanes, or of the open spaces of the Common.
|Huge hawthorn stool at corner of Rockham Wood - boundary or way marker?|
Rockham Wood is designated as an ancient, semi-natural broadleaf woodland. This is defined as a wood that has been in existence since AD 1600, but where some parts have been managed and introductions made, mostly in the form of broadleaf fringes.
Rockham Wood has been absorbed into the Woodbury Park golf-course complex, and has undergone changes to accommodate the course layout: in places fairways have cut swathes through it, while elsewhere it has been supplemented by new plantings of oak, birch, rowan, and ash. The original wood follows a typical pattern of tall oak and ash, with an under-storey of holly, hazel, birch, and hawthorn. At the western end, where the wood meets Walkidons Way, a larch plantation lies adjacent to a more mixed section of larch with ash, birch and willow, with an under-storey of hazel, hornbeam and holly. On its border along the track, there is a fine line of old oaks, and the boundary is marked by a high wood-bank of some 6ft. To the north of the course, the fishing lakes offer much scenic value. Pathways, wood and field edges are flanked by a rich mixture of species: hawthorn, hazel (many in a variety of coppice sizes), dogwood, field maple, holly, birch and willow. An alder grove adds seclusion to a little pond.
Without the relevant club memberships, these areas have no public access. Nevertheless, the views into and across them from Walkidons Way are varied and interesting.
Information in this post has been taken from
The Woodbury Village Design Statement, para. 3.16
Deryck Seymour, Torre Abbey chap. 23 and footnote 100.
Sally Elliott's contribution on Rockam Wood to the forthcoming report of the Woodbury Historic Environment Action Plan (an AONB project funded by English Heritage).
The photographs were taken in early October 2014, and the article written soon after, but for some reason remained as a draft and was not published at the time.... better late than never ...
|After the step-back-in-time that much of Walkidons Way offers,|
the view from the corner by Lyndhayne of new developments
behind Hogsbrook Farm is a jolt back into the present day.
|Traditional hedge-laying, or steeping.|
|View across the golf course up towards the top|
of Walkidons Way (above) and across the Exe valley
towards the Raddon Hills (below)
|Black bryony berries|
|Looking east along the line of Walkidons Way to Rockham Wood |
on the skyline, from near Hogsbrook Farm.
|Red Admiral butterfly (above) and bumble bee (below)|
enjoying the warmth and the nectar feast on ivy
at a sunny corner near Hogsbrook Farm.