Should Calfhole Beck Be Classified As Special Landscape? A Woodland Heritage Survey Takes a Look

One of our key aims in making a Neighbourhood Plan has been to create a proper record of our landscape and urban character.  So, much that we saw in the Leeds City Council evidence base for Aireborough in their Core Strategy up to 2028 was superficial and/or dated – and there seemed little appetite to provided any detailed, current information.

One area in particular that was not well documented was the dip slope of the Chevin down to Queensway – which used to be special landscape, but which lost that status for reasons unknown.    So, as well as an ecology and landscape survey down Wills Gill last year, we have spent the last two beautiful spring days deep in the heart of Deipkier and Calfhole Woods,  undertaking an archaeological and ecological survey.

Calfhole Beck – Boundary between Carlton and Guiseley

These ancient woods (woodland that existed before 1600) sit on the border of Guiseley, Carlton and Yeadon,  in an area of muddy glacial till between two areas of humpy glacial moraine.  The survey has been part of a South Pennines Woodland Heritage project, run by Pennine Prospects to look at the land use of ancient woodland across the region both in the past and in order to manage it better in the future.  The woods are owned by Leeds Bradford Airport and let out to Hopewell Equestrian – both organizations have been very helpful in allowing us access.  The woods are private property and cannot be accessed without permission.

Fifteen local people took part in the survey with specialist interests in ecology, landscape archaeology, industrial archaeology, geology, historic conservation and landscape photography – and were led by professional archaeologist Chris Atkinson.  We would like to thank them for their time and hard work.

Swathe of Alternate Leaved Golden Saxifrage

The woods are alluded to in the Domesday book, belonging to the manor of West Carlton; Calfhole is definitely mentioned in 1540 Minister’s Records as Calf Halle Woode; whilst Diepkier only acquired its odd spelling in the early 20th century – on old maps it is called Deepcar as it is an area of wooded marshland.  We found that Diepkier wood especially had many natural indicators of ancient woodland, including Dogs Mercury, Wood Sorrel and Wood Anemones.  There are also a number of ‘veteran’ trees on the wood boundary,  including some very old ash, willow and holly – but not so many internally, possibly due to them being lost to war efforts in the 20th century.

Water management and drainage has been very important in the area,  with a possible dam for agricultural use, or maybe to help power Guiseley Mill – the rain on Boxing Day 2015 showed how much water power could be sent down Calfhole Beck to Guiseley Beck in the right conditions.

Protection ditch between the medieval Vaccary and open grazing land.

Much of the wood would have been used as ‘wood pasture’ for cattle, pigs and horses.  And there are links to a likely vaccary (medieval dairy farm) on the Guiseley side of the Beck which would have been part of Guiseley Manor.  You can see in the field systems where there has not been any major enclosure since the 16th century, and the majority of the surrounding fields are Leys.  Wood Boundaries are always important for keeping cattle in or out, and both woods had interesting old boundaries, made up of walls, banks and ditches.

Today, the woods have had in the recent past nesting buzzards and red kite, whilst a woodpecker was heard both days – other animals seen include pheasants, hares, rabbits and deer.

There will be a full report on findings later this year.