The wood is named after a small group of local people from Carperby who have ancient rights of estovers in the wood.
This means they can gather firewood and coppice the trees.
Freeholders wood runs along the north side of the river Ure and the famous Aysgarth Waterfalls.
The wood may not be as old as the falls but it has been around for many hundreds of years.
For most of that time it has been farmed just like any other agricultural land.
Local people stopped coppicing the woodland more than 50 years ago.
The hazel stools began to rot and die from being shaded by taller trees. To preserve the woodland, the Yorkshire Dales bought the wood in 1982 and began coppice management again. An important piece of our past has been saved.
In between the hazel bushes, tall ‘standard’ trees were left to grow until they were big enough to be used to build barns or houses. This management system is called coppice with standards.
Lady of the woods
Coppice with Standards
Woodland like this was used as a renewable resource by local people.
Hazel, growing in the wood was regularly cut down to a low stump or stool. Instead of killing the tree, this caused it to sprout lots of useful stems or straight poles.
These could be harvested when they got to the size wanted.
Then the whole process called coppicing began again.
Because of the rich natural history of adjacent Freeholders’ Wood, the area has now been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Nature Reserve. Hazel dominates much of the woodland, but a number of other native British trees grow there, including Holly, Ash, Wych, Elm, Oak and Rowan. There are over 120 species of flowers and, in spring, the woodland floor fills with a carpet of bluebells studded with early purple orchids and woodland daisies. Adjacent is St Joseph’s Wood, a newly-planted woodland of 11,500 broadleaved trees that is set aside for conservation of wild life, but can be traversed by a public footpath.
Freeholders’ Wood provides an opportunity for a pleasant stroll.
The main path through the wood has a firm surface, making it suitable for all visitors, including those in pushchairs or wheelchairs.
Hazel trees in a carpet of wood Anemones
Freeholders Wood July 1927
The famous dales photographer JB Smithson and his family having a picnic in the wood.