Woodland Trust seeks help from the public to dig out memories of popular beauty spot

Laura White
Laura White
Dartington Axe Team. Credit: Moretonhampstead History Society

Do you have fond memories of Fingle Woods that you can share as part of an exhibition?

The Woodland Trust is looking for stories from people who have lived, worked in or loved this iconic Dartmoor wood. Contributions could include old photos, film or audio recordings, letters, postcards, or memories and quotes shared in person, via email or recording. Together they will help create a patchwork of the wood’s history, preserving it for future generations.

The exhibition, which will take place in the woods this summer, will be built around the stories collected. It will feature events, artwork and sculpture, photography and entertaining re-enactments by a living history group, as well as online videos and resources.

This exhibition will celebrate the end of the five year National Lottery Heritage Fund’s project that kicked started the Woodland Trust and National Trust’s collaboration to restore 825 acres of ancient woodland in the Teign Valley. Community engagement officer Eleanor Lewis said: “Fingle Woods is steeped in history and the project has uncovered many fascinating stories and memories of people connected to the woods, whether they worked here or visited on a family holiday. One of the stories I found most evocative is of children tending charcoal kilns overnight in the
woods, sitting on a one-legged charcoal burner’s stool, designed to topple over if they fell asleep.”

Stories abound at Fingle. Much of the site is ancient woodland; it features an Iron Age hill fort and the ruins of a 19th Century mill, both of which were excavated as part of the project.

From the 1930s the woods became the site of an innovative forestry experiment led by the Elmhirsts of the Dartington Estate, where areas of native broadleaf trees were replanted with conifers. A 2013 exhibition helped the project team to identify the names of men featured in a classic 1950s photo of forestry workers from the Dartington Archive, through friends and family who recognised them.

The public are invited to email finglewoods@woodlandtrust.org.uk to talk about their memories or anything else they can share about Fingle’s history and to help the project team capture it for years to come. The exhibition is currently being developed with contributions being gathered from now and into May so please do get in touch soon.

The exhibition will run from Saturday, 24th July to Friday, 13th August, with activities taking place along the river path and at the hill fort.

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