A few months ago we visited Hatfield Forest, which is a rare survival of a medieval royal hunting forest. I love woods and forests because they so often have a real sense of history; the ancient trees like living sculptures, the sense of timelessness that you get when you walk between them.
Hatfield Forest was in existence at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086. It belonged to King Harold and passed to William of Normandy at the time of the Conquest. A forest in those days was a mixture of woodland and open spaces for grazing. Fallow deer were introduced in 1100 from Sicily and their descendants still roam the woods today. Rabbits were another “foreign” introduction and a warren was set up in the woods to provide meat and fur. In keeping with may other medieval hunting grounds, including Ashdown Park, Hatfield had a lodge that was the residence of the Head Keeper. The current lodge, dating from 1570, is still standing and originally had a tower at one end from which spectators could watch the progress of the hunt.