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Canklow Woods

There are old earthworks at the top of Canklow Hill which is a scheduled ancient monument. There was a Bronze Age settlement here and flint tools were found ,also an Iron Age fort and farmstead in the upper parts of the wood. In pre-historic times part of the area that is now Canklow Woods was cleared and farmed in terraces called strip-lynchets using an early form of plough called an ard. The soil here is very poor and very, very stony so I don't image they got a good living. If you look closely you can may see the many low stone banks in this area most of which are now disguised by vegetation - but you will have to peer as there is nowt much to see. The remains of an old hollow-way or hollowgate seen now as a shallow ditch to the south of the present path between the back of Oakwood Hospital and the lane close to Canklow Roundabout. This route is of great antiquity and climbed from the former ford at Canklow up to the Iron Age settlement.

At some time before history was written down the settlement was abandoned. Canklow Woods are first mentioned in a document of 1202 as Kankelawe which means steep hill. Some of the woodlands were coppiced and the young growth used for charcoal-making.

The hillsides here and in Boston Park were quarried for the Rotherham Red sandstone also called Mexborough Red Rock but I don't know when the quarries first started or when they finished. The stone was used for several buildings, including the Thomas Rotherham College, and for the restoration of Rotherham Minster. One of the rock faces is now recognised as a regionally important geological site.

Canklow Woods is a 200 acre area which survived enclosure as it was not considered economic due to the poor soils. The wood was intact until the First World War when the need for timber resulted in the destruction of approximately half of the woodland. During the miners' strike of 1926 much of the remainder was felled, leaving only the wood at the southern end of the area and a small area near Oakwood. It has Heritage Woodland status which means that the area has been woodland for at least four hundred years. Canklow Woods is also a Site of Scientific Interest for it's archaeological remains.

Part of the old quarries at Canklow Woods
Part of the old quarries at Canklow Woods
Canklow Woods
Canklow Woods

There was only sparse regeneration as there is little surface water but after the wet years 1978 and 1979 there was development of birch stands and the growth of young oak and sweet chestnut leading to the present quite well- wooded condition. Canklow Woods is actually a rather odd area. In addition to the dry oak woods there are bits of bog and open areas of heathland. There was a smallholding on the south side and some twenty-odd years ago squatters tried to enclose other parts of the woods, cutting down areas of trees, putting up fences, closing off public footpaths and pasturing livestock. They were eventually seen off.

At that time the woods were owned by the estate of the Duke of Norfolk but Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council purchased the site in April 2000 using money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Explore the old quarries - carefully. Have a good look at the lateral moraine and imagine when the river valley was filled with ice. Enjoy the wildlife - there are rabbits and hare if you watch for them, so there will be foxes but I have not seen them. You will often see a kestrel or a sparrowhawk overhead, or disturb partridge or pheasant in the bushes - a dog is good for that one.

Toadstool (Fly Agaric) in Canklow Woods
Toadstool in Canklow Woods

Whilst the variety of wild flowers is not impressive, after a period of wet weather, the mushrooms and fungi can be. This is the best specimen I could find at the time I was taking the photographs it was very small at the side of some I've seen growing there. The Biological Records Centre at Clifton Museum has records for 80 species of larger fungi in the area.

The car park in Boston Park is a good place to start a walk around Canklow Woods - as long or as short as you like. There is a Heritage Trail through the woods marked by waymarked green circles with yellow arrows - there are long and short routes.

See also Boston Park.

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