Nov 04 2020

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? Plenty when it comes to woods says David Crowley


“Lots of Welsh placenames give us clues to how the landscape once looked, especially when it comes to woods and trees. The Dyfi port of Derwenlas translates as ‘Blue oak’, for example, and Plas-llwyn-gwern means ‘Alder bush mansion’. I’m volunteering on a new research project to dig out more of these historic connections, part of the Trust’s groundwork as it seeks to colour in the countryside again with trees.


“At the moment it’s mostly desk work, studying old maps and documents and visiting local archives. I can glean loads from early Ordnance Survey and tithe maps, which often have every building and boundary shown. Sometimes surveyors even recorded individual trees, giving their species too. And while my Welsh isn’t great, I do know my way around a lot of Welsh woodland terms, and that’s what I’m looking out for.



The Dyfi Biosphere, Mair Hughes:


“My focus for now is on the Dyfi Valley, as part of the Trust’s contribution to the UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere project. Until the late 19th century ships were built along the river, so timber was very important to people – huge numbers of trees were needed. But that’s true of every community across Wales, too: they would have needed wood for pit props, tools, carts and cartwheels, for just about everything. We forget, don’t we?

“For now this is a pilot study, and the next step will be to meet up with communities in the Dyfi to show locals what we’ve found and ask what they can add. Community memory goes back a long way. We are hoping to spark conversations about how the countryside once looked, to inform how it might look in the future.”

This article first appeared in Broadleaf, the magazine for members of the Woodland Trust.


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