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History of Clanger Wood

There was woodland on the site of what is now Clanger Wood in the 1080s when assessors were completing the Great Survey of England, later recorded in the Domesday Book

At the time, the woodland was part of the Forest of Selwood, a large area of woodland on the borders between Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset. By the 12th century the area was known as Westbury Forest.

Much of forest’s original woodland had become farmland by the 16th century, but a few remnants survive, including Clanger Wood.

The wood was once part of the Heywood Estate which included a manor of great historic interest that has changed hands many times through the centuries. In 1224 Heywood Manor was given to Stanley Abbey, but with the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s it passed to the Earl of Marlborough.

The present house is Jacobean in style but was built in the 19th century. It is now owned by the National Trust which uses it as offices, opening it up to the public one day a year.

Some old maps show Clanger Wood under another name – Lambind Wood. The Tithe Map of 1842 shows Clanger Wood’s sub-sections and gives each one a name. They are Lambert’s Wood, Beech Wood (there is still one section dominated by beech trees), Upper Long Wood, Lower Long Wood and Upper and Lower Clay Hanger woods. These old names are no longer in use.

Two other woods appear with Clanger Wood on the old maps and both remain intact today. Neighbouring Picket Wood is separated from Clanger Wood by an old green lane, while Round Wood is across the A350. Picket Wood was once known as Pikes’s Copse.

In the late 1960s, Clanger and Picket woods were mostly cleared of the original oak coppice to make way for conifers, and by the 1980s about two-thirds of the wood had been ‘coniferised’.

In 1984, 42ha (105 acres) of Clanger Wood were given to the Trust by the previous owner, Robert Kiln. It was the largest single gift the Trust had received at that time.

Since then the Trust has worked to gradually restore the wood to its former glory. Conifers have been thinned so that native trees such as ash, hazel and willow can regenerate, and oaks have been coppiced. Where conifers blocked out much of the light there are now open glades where wild flowers thrive.

A distinctive feature of Clanger Wood are the old lanes that run along its boundaries. Picket Wood Lane runs along the northern boundary, from Pike’s Copse Corner to the eastern boundary of the wood, where it is known as Old Lane; and Clay Hanger Lane runs along the wood’s southern boundary. Both lanes join what was the old Westbury Turnpike Road which is now the A350.

Picket Wood Lane has been cleared in some places. It can be reached by taking the first open ride to the left from the wood’s main ride. Its earth banks are clearly visible and, where the lane has been cleared of dense undergrowth, many spring and summer flowers have reappeared.

Close to Picket Wood Lane is a clearing surrounded by ancient coppiced oak trees where there are several beehives (please take care not to disturb the bees). In the Domesday survey of the Manor of Westbury, nine beekeepers are mentioned – the only reference in the survey to beekeepers in Wiltshire.

The name Clanger is a shortened form of an earlier name, Clay Hanger Wood. The word ‘hangra’ is Old English and refers to a clay slope. The wood is situated in the clay vale of mid and west Wiltshire.