Place Services, working in partnership with Sarah Rutherford, has been contracted by the National Trust to prepare a Conservation Management Plan for Hatfield Forest, Essex. Hatfield Forest is an internationally significant site, both for its archaeology and its ecology. It is the only remaining intact Royal Hunting Forest in England and dates from the late 11th century.
Oliver Rackham, the botanist and expert on the countryside, in his book about the Forest entitled The Last Forest argues that: “Hatfield is of supreme interest in that all the elements of a medieval Forest survive: deer, cattle, coppice woods, pollards, scrub, timber trees, grassland and fen .... As such it is almost certainly unique in England and possibly in the world …….The Forest owes very little to the last 250 years ….. Hatfield is the only place where one can step back into the Middle Ages to see, with only a small effort of the imagination, what a Forest looked like in use.”
In addition to its archaeological and historic landscape significance the forest is also noted for its ecology; it is a SSSI and National Nature Reserve. It is noted for its ancient pollarded oaks and hornbeams and the fallow deer in the Forest are the descendants of the original introductions in the Norman period.
The Conservation Management Plan will comprise an assessment of all the available data for the site as well as the obtaining new information from earthwork surveys, a geophysical survey and a palaeoenvironmental survey.
The intention being to build up as full an understanding of the landscape history of the forest in order to inform its management into the future. To this end Place Services is working in conjunction with Sarah Rutherford, a noted landscape and parkland historian, Oxford Archaeology, AtlasGeophysics and the QUEST (Quarternary Scientific, University of Reading).