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Michael Thomson

Current state of Mametz Wood

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Michael Thomson

Hello everyone. 

 

There was a similar thread on this forum about a year ago in which somebody asked about the state at the time of Mametz Wood and pictures were posted showing the Wood looking very much thinned out. 

 

I was there in September 2017 and the Wood certainly looked very thick and dense around the Hammer Head area as seen from the Dragon Memorial but I did notice a very large number of trees had numbers spraypainted on them, presumably marking them for felling? 

 

I'm wondering what the present state of Mametz Wood is? 

 

Also, are people permitted to walk beyond the treeline? How would one go about obtaining permission from the landowner? 

 

Thank you in advance! 

 

PS my interest is not metal detecting or digging - which I believe is quite a big problem in the area- but rather seeing and experiencing in closer detail places of great historical interest.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Michael Thomson
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horrocks

There has been a lot of felling, particularly in the Hammerhead, during the last 8 years, and the edge of the wood has been thinned back right up to the Cemetery. This is just the normal process of forest husbandry. The wood is out of bounds.

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Gunner Bailey

I wouldn't go inside the woods anywhere in France when the hunting season starts in September. Sometimes being outside can be hazardous too. A number of years ago I was walking a field near Gordon Dump Cemetery when I heard a shot and a second of so later saw some dust rise about 25 yards in front of me. Looking round I saw 4 hunters with shotguns and a dog about 200yards away. I waved and left the field, marvelling at their communication skills! 

Edited by Gunner Bailey

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Michael Thomson

Thank you Horrocks and Gunner Bailey. 

 

It sounds like things can get quite 'exciting' in hunting season in the Somme! A situation definitely to be avoided! 

 

I'm glad that the Wood is being 'managed' and by the sounds of it, in a responsible manner. 

 

In your much more expert opinion, do you think Mametz today resembles its pre-July 1916 self in any way? From what I understand the woods in the Somme such as Mametz, Delville Wood, High Wood etc are very very very old and have looked more or less the same for hundreds of years...

 

 

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Gunner Bailey

The vast majority of hunters in France are I'm sure sensible people but there is always to odd one.

 

About 8 years ago my wife and I were driving back to Calais and as we passed through a small village (Regniere-Ecluse) when a young hunter pointed his over/under Browning shotgun at us as we drove by at about 20 mph. He tracked the car with the shotgun for a few seconds then turned his back.  He was part of a group of about 10 waiting to go into the fields.

 

Slightly disturbing.

Edited by Gunner Bailey

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Doug504
1 hour ago, Michael Thomson said:

Thank you Horrocks and Gunner Bailey. 

 

It sounds like things can get quite 'exciting' in hunting season in the Somme! A situation definitely to be avoided! 

 

I'm glad that the Wood is being 'managed' and by the sounds of it, in a responsible manner. 

 

In your much more expert opinion, do you think Mametz today resembles its pre-July 1916 self in any way? From what I understand the woods in the Somme such as Mametz, Delville Wood, High Wood etc are very very very old and have looked more or less the same for hundreds of years...

 

 

The woods retain their original boundaries in most cases, following their 1916 layout very accurately. This can be seen by comparing trench maps of the period with modern images, the N.L.S. website is excellent for this.

 

https://maps.nls.uk/geo/find/#zoom=8&lat=50.0508&lon=2.8399&layers=60&b=1&point=0,0

 

However, all the woodlands in the Somme are actively managed and few retain any trees which were in existence in the period. As a result of the continual management of the woodlands these areas however have not been ploughed. As a result it is in the woodlands that trench line remains etc can still be found. In addition because the woodlands received such heavy artillery fire higher levels of metallic elements can be found within the soils of the woodlands. Not to such an extent that they would be hazardous, but proving the Great War left an environmental legacy in the soils of the Somme.

 

Another much wider scale survey found similar results in the Ypres salient.

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3357735/

 

Doug

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Gunner Bailey
1 hour ago, Michael Thomson said:

In your much more expert opinion, do you think Mametz today resembles its pre-July 1916 self in any way? From what I understand the woods in the Somme such as Mametz, Delville Wood, High Wood etc are very very very old and have looked more or less the same for hundreds of years...

 

 

 

I think you would have to study the WW1 era maps for that but I think most of the woods probably are the same shape as in WW1. Although the woods were devastated they must have provided free firewood for many years as the woods recovered and were in most cases cleared of the obviously dangerous munitions, though the clearances were  not as thorough as the open farmland.

 

A few years ago I was in Mametz Wood with some friends and one of them felt some resistance to the side of his boot as he walked and he'd exposed a complete bandoliers worth of .303 bullets and chargers.

 

About 6 years ago I heard of some woods near Arras that had not been cleaned up at all and some English collectors took car loads of relics out of it - all laying on the surface. I'm sure there are private woods (like High Wood) that are still a treasure trove.

Edited by Gunner Bailey

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Gunner Bailey
1 minute ago, Doug504 said:

 Not to such an extent that they would be hazardous, but proving the Great War left an environmental legacy in the soils of the Somme.

 

I did hear a couple of years ago that wells are banned on the Somme battlefield for drinking water. Apparently the sheer volume of metal and other contaminants make natural well water dangerous.

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Doug504

Yes, that’s true but I can’t remember which areas exactly, and I don’t have papers at hand. Also, in the Verdun region some areas again had drinking water contaminated from  arsenic run off as a result of the burning of unexploded shells recovered. These “burning sites” are still heavily contaminated and very little will grow there. Disposal is now done under much more rigorous conditions ensuring no contamination to surrounding areas.

 

http://www.toxicremnantsofwar.info/assessing-the-toxic-legacy-of-first-world-war-battlefields/

 

document

Doug.

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Don Regiano

The mains water is OK but, because of its high chalk content, can leave some deposits.  It sure furs up heating elements quite quickly and we have had to de-scale the wc of our wcs to get them working properly and prevent them from over-filling (but at least here the anti-scale tablets seem to work in keeping them clear).  Just another of those little things to be aware of if you have, or are considering, a property on the Somme!  .

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Michael Thomson

Very interesting indeed! I know that there was a study done on Omaha Beach in Normandy in the 1990s where geologists determined that the beach sand was 4% metal and contained a lot of microscopic glass beads- a result of the heavy bombardment there on D-Day so I'm absolutely certain that WW1 left a lasting geological mark on the land in the Somme too...even more so than the Normandy campaign in WW2.

 

 

Edited by Michael Thomson

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Michael Thomson

Hello everyone,

I was just wondering if anybody has been to Mametz Wood recently? 

 

I posted asking about the state of the wood a few months ago as I'd heard that there had been extensive tree felling recently...has anybody been there in the last month or so? 

 

Are there crops in the fields between the Dragon Monument and the Hammerhead? 

 

I don't intend to go into the wood as I believe it is private property but it would be a pity if it has been thinned out significantly as it always looks like such an imposing wall of giant trees from the Dragon Monument.

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KIRKY

We were there in March and the winds were blowing trees down all over the wood! Spectacular sight and sounds!

TK

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Don Regiano

Sorry, this was last July but there was a well defined track into the wood.  I think it was associated with the tree felling, of which there was plenty of evidence.

 

 

DSC_0311.JPG

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nigelcave

There is some nasty bug/virus/whatever that is infecting, I think, ash trees and there is felling going on on a massive scale in various forets dominale (e.g. Verdun, their part of the forest outside the Vimy site etc) as cutting the trees down is the only way of beating the pest. Obviously not saying that this is the case at Mametz of course, but interesting to note.

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paulgranger

Yes, Ash Dieback. The Woodland Trust and Forestry Commission are both seeking a treatment or cure, but nothing so far. 

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horrocks

There has been extensive felling going on in the hammerhead since at least 2013, including a cutback of the entire fringe up to the cemetery. This is normal husbandry/cropping. I don't think there is much ash, more hornbeam and oak as I recall, the former clearly once coppiced.

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Michael Thomson

Very interesting, thank you for the update. 

 

It seems that tree-disease epidemics are not uncommon...I recall a story about Dutch Elm Disease causing massive damage to elms in Europe a few years ago. 

 

Presumably the tree fellers take some precautions when working in these woods? I'd imagine having heavy logging equipment rumbling over unstable old ordnance is asking for trouble?

 

Edited by Michael Thomson

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horrocks

The elms were decimated in the 1970s, completely changed the character of the lansdcape in many parts of the UK. Elms were a hedge tree, used since the time of the Enclosures Act,  they were bred in nurseries, presumably from a limited genetic base. There are some survivors, Wych Elms, a Cornish species and some odd genetic rarities which seem to be immune. The roots often remain extant in hedges, and hedge trees will grow to about 20ft before they are attacked by the beetle. One of the most graceful English trees, and sorely missed.

 

No elms in Mametz Wood. "Straggle-tangled oak, and flayed sheeny beech bole / and fragile birch whose silver queenery is draggled and ungraced..."

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Bernard_Lewis

Is the quote from David Jones?

 

Bernard

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seaJane

Yes, it is; I just checked.

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Bernard_Lewis

Mr Jones had a certain style. 

 

Thanks for looking it up, seaJane.

 

Bernard

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horrocks

Sorry, I missed the David Jones question.

 

He was raised in rural Kent, and had a perceptive and knowledgeable eye for flora.

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Bernard_Lewis

...and a way with words! 

 

Bernard

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horrocks

Indeed. I know some quite extensive passages by heart.

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