How do you lose a village?

OK, I know the title of this post sounds a bit strange but I will explain, promise. It all started with an oak tree and a fox.

Oak at Mountain Clump

The weather has been so grotty this weekend that when the sun momentarily came out at 11am today I stuck my boots on and hurried out the door. I’d been meaning to measure an oak tree I’d seen on a previous walk (for the Ancient Tree Hunt and Dorset Greenwood Tree Project) so I decided now was as good a time as any.

I’d spotted the oak just before I stumbled upon a very large ash tree (from a previous post). To be honest when I found the ash I sort of forgot to measure the oak as well. I remembered it as being big, but I hadn’t realised quite how big.

Bracket fungi

Bracket fungi on the oak

It sits on the side of a hill about 100 metres away from an area called “Mountain Clump” along with six other oaks in the middle of a field. I hadn’t really noticed the clump of trees (that give this area its name) on my previous walk, but looking at them today I realised how extensive they were. The clump itself was also surrounded by ditches. Very strange and not very natural.

Old boughs

Broken limbs from long ago

Anyway I measured the tree. A very healthy 6.5 metres (that’s over 20ft!) girth at chest height from the ground. In tree terms that’s a whopper! It was covered in lichen and bracket fungi, with signs of broken limbs and at the bottom a hole. It was too small to look into (and too dark) so I stuck the camera inside with the flash on, and was quite surprised by the extent of the hollowing.

Inside the oak

A secret view inside the tree

So now down the hill and along the track next to the ash (above). I think I mentioned on the previous post that this track looked “old”. It’s very deep with very high banks on either side. Suddenly a fox appeared at the top of the bank. We stared at each other and then it was gone.

I clambered up the bank, expecting to see a normal wood on the other side. The fox was nowhere to be seen, but in front of me were more banks. Some at right angles to the track, others curving round. I walked along the top of one of the banks following the well warn tracks of a badger. I knew these banks weren’t natural but what the hell were they? I was in the middle of nowhere, in a wood, surrounded by 10ft high earth banks.

I’ve got to admit the rain caught up with me at this point and I hurried home. Once inside I was straight on the internet looking for references to “Mountain Clump”. What I found amazed me. Just one reference that said:

The Knoll forms the highest point, at 70 metres above sea level. There is evidence of an early hamlet, in existence at least from 1327. A similar mound exists at Mountain Clump on the opposite side of Knoll Lane, around which are numerous banks and ditches, and to the north-west of the Clump are visible earthworks of the lost village.

I’d found the lost village. What village? did it have a name? why have I never heard about it? Where did it go? Oh god, now I’ll have to try and find out. One thing’s for sure, it does go some way to explaining why I have found two very old trees nearby. No doubt planted by a lost villager from the spooky lost village!

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4 thoughts on “How do you lose a village?

  1. Hi Jane. How intriguing. You got me interested too. Looking at the OS map on the internet, there are a lot of tumuli near and farms which have medieval names. I guess looking at old parish maps will give more information than the O/S map. Are there any field names too around there which can give a clue to the village? Many fieldnames remain the same for centuries. Given the site also has earthworks (are these earlier do you think?), could the trees possibly be boundary markers? With the Knoll itself being the central boundary point. In Saxon times “hundreds” were areas where land was split between the lords of the manor, often ditches, trees, walls or hedges were used to signify where the boundary was between one manor and the next. There’s also a chance a lost village is nothing other than a hamlet or cottages around a farm, but it’s going to be very interesting to read what you discover in the future. Good luck. Good posting.

  2. Hi Border Reiver. It’s fascinating isn’t it. I’ve tried looking on some old maps (as suggested) but no field names… There are signs of a “chalk pit”, “gravel pit” and “brick works” nearby, so maybe the village grew up around them, and then disappeared when the pit and brick works closed. I’m sure the trees are boundary markers. They are still on hedge lines now.

    Maybe the village grew up in the shade of the “mountain clump” which definately has earthworks around it, and is “very” old. Maybe it had more significance that we realise. Some more digging into the facts is obviously required. I will keep you updated of any developments! Jane

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