There is confusion over the name of the area I’m writing about today but the general consensus seems to be that Dodderhill Common and the adjacent Piper’s Hill Common, together form Hanbury Woods. Perfect for winter walks, we used to take the children here regularly when they were small and always referred to it as Dodderhill Common. I have fond memories of them, and Elsa (our lovely golden retriever), running in and out of the trees and kicking the enormous piles of dead leaves that gathered in the open spaces. Although we visit far less often nowadays, it is good to have such a peaceful and calming place almost on our doorstep.
The two commons were once grazing land and formed what, in the Middle Ages, and quite possibly before then, ancient wood pasture. It’s likely that the owner granted permission to the commoners to graze their livestock but as common grazing declined dramatically the the oak, beech and sweet chestnuts trees, some of the oldest in England, began to be ousted by younger competitors greedy for the nutrients and light. I can see several ‘pictures’ in this example of a rotting tree.
Fortunately the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust stepped in and has been restoring the pasture by felling certain trees and the area is now recognised as of national importance in demonstrating how to preserve veteran trees. The dead wood is left on site to encourage wildlife habitat and fungus, of which more than 200 species have been identified, including some rarer types which grow on dead elm and newly cut beech.
Just a short uphill walk away is Hanbury Church, St. Mary’s. Reputed to have been on the site of an Iron Age fort and that a Saxon monastery once stood there, but whilst there is evidence in a Royal charter to support the latter, none exists to suggest that the fort was ever there.
Nearby Hanbury Hall, which dates from 1701 and was built for the then MP for Worcester, is now owned by the National Trust.
Beyond the formal gardens which include an intricate parterre and orangery the grounds give way to a 20 acre open park area which contains an ice house, brick kiln pond and a rare black poplar tree. It’s easy to imaging the family riding in their coach and horses along the avenue of trees which lead to the church, or perhaps walking on warmer days.
Separating the garden from the park area is a ha-ha. The ditch, with a wall along the side designed to keep the grazing animals from the formal gardens, is apparently so named because, largely invisible from even a short distance away, it provoked surprise once seen.
Although we live within half a mile of a town centre, I feel very blessed that we are surrounded by the lovely Worcestershire countryside.
NB: whilst I would like to take credit for the photographs, thanks must go to my husband