Ancient Hazel Project

Ancient woodland is a scarce but important feature of the Saltburn Valleys. Our Heritage Lottery-funded project in 2019-2020 focused on the hazel tree with its cob nuts and bright green leaves, one of the most loved countryside plants. Its history is intertwined with that of the human occupation of England, the nuts being a valuable food source and its wood being a highly adaptable material for building, tools and baskets. The long association of hazel with humans has given rise to myths and legends surrounding its magical properties.

We commissioned the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust (TVWT) to run a series of monthly activities for us culminating in an exhibition of photographs, information and recorded sounds. 

Starting in March 2019 we did a Hazel Coppicing event in Saltburn Gill led by volunteer Dan van der Toorn, and then in April there were two Woodland Wild Flower walks in Hazel Grove and Rifts Wood led by the Botanist and Ecologist Martin Allen. 

Images of coppicing and wild garlic. 

In May we did a Dawn Chorus walk and two additional Early Morning Bird Song Walks in Rifts Wood led by Steve Ashton from the TVWT, followed by Creative Writing in the woods led by Steve Ashton and Kate Bartram from TVWT. Haiku verses from this event are on show at the Photographic Exhibition.

In July and August we ran two Hazel Magic Activity sessions in the woods for children led by Steve Ashton which were much enjoyed by those attending, making potions and creating woodland people out of clay and twigs.

We then did a fascinating Divining Workshop led by Martin Allen in September, followed by two Fungus Foray walks in October, in Saltburn Gill and Rifts Wood, led by a volunteer local fungus expert Alan Simkins.

In November a great Lobster Pot making workshop was run at the Woodland Centre by volunteers, local fishermen Ed Woodall and Robert Proctor.

In the autumn we had Beavers planting Hazel in Hazel Grove and Kate Bartram from the TVWT finished off our programme with a talk at the Methodist Church all about the Ancient Hazel and its heritage, myths and various usages.

The Photographic Exhibition was shown at the Saltburn Woodland Centre in February 2020.

We would like to thank everyone that participated, those who came to the activities, the expert volunteers and activity leaders, the photographers, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust and National Lottery Players everywhere - without whose contributions we could not have run this project.