Ditches & banks

As areas of pasture surrounded much of The Blean in the 13th century it became an important time for enclosing woods with earthworks. A ditch was excavated and the spoil used to create a woodbank. This was not simply a property boundary but a way to deter animals gaining entry to the wood, as an animal would have to negotiate first the ditch and then the bank. Considerable investment was justified as it was important to prevent animals grazing on the valuable early coppice re-growth. Often the larger the bank the wealthier the landowner and this can still be clearly seen along Radfall Road (Blean Woods NNR), the larger north bank belonging to the Christ Church Cathedral Priory and the southern to Eastbridge Hospital.

Hedge Laying
Hedges were often laid on top of the woodbanks. Coppice stems are pleached, or partly cut then bent over and interwoven to form a living barrier against livestock. Tight circles of Beech known as stells were also laid to form stock proof pens.

With thanks to the Blean Heritage and Community Group