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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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