Community digs to unveil wood’s past

James Hawksley with an ancient mill stone in Lea Wood
James Hawksley with an ancient mill stone in Lea Wood

THE secrets of an historic woodland will be revealed as part of a major heritage project paid for with a little help from the Lottery.

The Dethick, Lea and Holloway Historical Society has been awarded a £63,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to enable an archaeological, historical and ecological investigation of Lea Wood.

Volunteers from the community will be taking a hands on role in the project in the woodland, which is adjacent to Cromford Canal at Lea Bridge.

Project manager James Hawksley said: “Receiving notification of the award was marvellous news.

“We are confident that, through the enthusiasm of the volunteers from the community, we shall achieve a very worthwhile outcome.”

There is evidence of activity in Lea Wood from early medieval to Victorian times, through to the twentieth century.

A number of stone querns, used for grinding grain, thought to be from medieval or possibly earlier period have been found.

Also found were the remains of several hearths used for making charcoal and similar wood-based fuels, which were likely to have supplied local lead smelters between the 16th and 18th centuries.

There are some indications of an Iron Age or earlier settlement on the upper areas of the wood.

Teams of volunteers will carry out archive research and field surveys with some excavation where appropriate.

The information uncovered by the project will be made available through booklets, leaflets and the village website.

Emma Sayer, head of Heritage Lottery Fund East Midlands, said: “This is a wonderful project that brings the volunteers from the community together to share and uncover the history that lies outside their doorstep.

“We look forward to finding out what potentially fascinating history of Lea Wood they might uncover.”

Excavation work on the woodland is currently estimateded to take place in summer next year. Anyone interested in volunteering for the project, or who requires further information is asked to email