The Wychwood, or Wychwood Forest, is an area now covering a small part of rural Oxfordshire. In past centuries the forest covered a much larger area, since cleared in favour of agriculture, villages and towns. However, the forest's area has fluctuated. Parts cleared for agriculture during Britain's centuries under Roman rule later reverted to forest.
Wychwood is derived from an Old English name Huiccewudu meaning 'wood of a tribe called the Hwicce. The Hwicce were the Anglo-Saxon people living in the area from some time in the 6th century until the assimilation of the Old English peoples into the wider Middle English society.
Early medieval clearings were made to convert forest land to pasture for wool production. Irregular field boundaries in parts of the forest's former area are evidence of mediaeval assarting. Later clearances elsewhere in the former forest area have left more regular field boundaries, as for example in Leafield parish where the area south of the hamlet of Langley was cleared in 1857-58.
Some of the land that had been cleared for agricultural use was purchased by the Woodland Trust, and re-planted with native English deciduous trees creating Shillbrook Wood, a 9-acre (3.6 ha) site near Bampton, and Eynsham Wood, a 13.37-acre (5.41 ha) site near Eynsham.
Since the late 1990s there has been a resurgence of interest in the history and identity of the Wychwood, exemplified by the founding of the Wychwood Project. Since 2000 'Forest Fairs' have been held at a variety of locations within the old Wychwood boundary. These are a better-behaved revival of traditional Fairs that were closed down in 1856 because of rowdy behaviour.
The modern Fairs are centred around rural communities and crafts. They attract a large number of visitors even in bad weather.
The Wychwood has also given its name to a set of three villages in Oxfordshire, Milton-under-Wychwood, Shipton-under-Wychwood and Ascott-under-Wychwood. The villages together are known by locals as "The Wychwoods".
Fragments of the ancient forest survive, one on the Cornbury Estate near Charlbury retaining the name 'Wychwood'. This, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, contains an eponymous National Nature Reserve.
- Rackham, 1976, page 50
- Oxford Dictionary of Placenames, A.D. Mills, ISBN 978-0-19-852758-9
- Taylor, 1982, page 96
- Taylor, 1982, page 146
- Taylor, 1982, page 145, Figure 25a
- "Shillbrook Wood". Directory of Woods. The Woodland Trust. Retrieved 2007-10-02.
- "Eynsham Wood". Directory of Woods. The Woodland Trust. Retrieved 2007-10-02.
- Wychwood Warriors
Sources and further reading
- Emery, Frank (1974). The Oxfordshire Landscape. The Making of the English Landscape. London: Hodder & Stoughton. pp. 44, 51, 57, 62, 63, 70, 71, 85–88, 109, 123, 124, 158–162, 177, 201, 229. ISBN 0-340-04301-6.
- Rackham, Oliver (1976). Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape. Archaeology in the Field Series. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. p. 50. ISBN 0-460-04183-5.
- Taylor, Christopher (1982) . Fields in the English Landscape. Archaeology in the Field Series. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. p. 96. ISBN 0-460-02232-6.
- Watney, Vernon J (1910). Cornbury And The Forest Of Wychwood. London: Hatchards.