Monday, April 16, 2007

Beech Avenue, Thoresby

Above: Birklands Wood.

In the 19th Century the wooded areas of Birklands, around the Major Oak, and Bilhaugh, next to Ollerton Corner, were popular tourist attractions, both a part of Thoresby Estate. Birklands was landscaped and maintained with a mixture of Oak and Birch, and there is an interesting record of how a 1902 scheme to seed the area with new birch trees was thwarted by pre-myxomatosis levels of rabbit population, before which up to 10,000 rabbits had been shot annually on the estate.

The 20th Century took a toll on both the Bilhaugh and Ollerton Corner areas in particular. Timber was needed for two wars, not to mention the opening of a Colliery (the name of which was at first objected to by Thoresby Estate). In 1942 Proteus Camp (eventually re-named the Dukeries Training Area) was established, and both Birklands and the woods at Bilhaugh and Ollerton Corner, were used as ammunition dumps. During these decades the emphasis was clearly not on landscaping for leisure pursuits, but on hard core profitable production and National needs.

Above: Beech Avenue 1969. Photo copyright 2013 Graham Travis and used with permission.

Above: Beech Avenue late 1940s / early 1950s. For a video of Beech Avenue click here.
Beech Avenue.
These four rows of trees apparently rivalled Robin Hood's Major Oak as a place of both local and national interest. When in 1925 a railway track was planned to run from Thoresby Colliery, through Cockglode, and into Ollerton Corner, letters of protest appeared in The Times. Thanks to public support of Earl Manvers' petition the scheme was dropped. But the woods of Ollerton Corner were cleared for timber needed by the mine.

It is known that the war time entertainer Gracie Fields once visited Beech Avenue whilst staying at the Coaching House, now known as the Hop Pole. Beech Avenue acquired the nickname "the Cathedral" because of the way its branches met over the roadway like the arches over a cathedral's aisle. Allegedly, even at the height of summer, the only light which penetrated was from each end of the Avenue.

Beech Avenue was finally cleared in 1976 / 78, following decades of neglect, overgrowth, old age, the storm damage of 1976, and of course the military presence of Proteus Camp. But it is still clearly labelled on certain maps, and marked by an aging gate at the side of the A614 near Ollerton roundabout (although I believe it was situated a few yards to the right of that gate).
Above: The gate near Ollerton roundabout where Beech Avenue was once situated.
Chestnut Avenue.
From the north western end of Beech Avenue one could continue to Buck Gates and Chestnut Avenue. Chestnut Avenue was a straight carriage ride to the original Thoresby Hall (still visible from the air), and it is said that in the 18th Century one could view the Hall beside Thoresby Lake, from  Buck Gates lodge.

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Blogger robin hood said...

Perlethorpe Village, Thoresby Park, Sherwood Forest, the Dukeries, Thoresby Hall, history.

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Blogger robin hood said...

Pierrepont, Manvers, Dukeries, Thoresby Hall, Thoresby Hotel, Thoresby Park, Perlethorpe, Perlethorpe Village, Ollerton, Budby, Sherwood Forest, Perlethorpe School, Perlethope Church, Budby.

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