Skerningham Spring Equinox Guided Walk

Demonstration at the Amphitheatre in Skerningham Community Woodland against the planned housing and golf course redevelopment that will destroy the whole area

The weather held for the guided walk through Skerningham on 20th March, which was led by David Clark. We met at the top of Glebe Road, walked across the bridge over the railway line and then took the left hand path which runs parallel with the East Coast Mainline until it veers to the north east and meets up with the start of Skerningham Plantation.

Walking towards the start of Skerningham Plantation

Skerningham Plantation – or “Skunny Woods” are the remains of a large mature broadleaf woodland which was planted in medieval times, perhaps even before the Norman conquest. The first written reference to Skerningham can be found in W.Hylton Longstaffe’s The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Darlington, where Longstaffe writes of Ecgfrida, daughter of Bishop Aldhun, the first Bishop of Durham (born circa 959, died 1018), who was married to the Earl of Northumbria, Uchtred the Bold. Sadly Uchtred grew tired of her and sent her back to her father (who then married her off to Kilvert, a Yorkshire Thane, who also grew tired of her and also sent her back so she decided to become a nun). Skerningham had apparently been part of Ecgfrida’s dowry when she married Uchtred:

Aldhune had gilded his daughter with Barmpton, Skerningham and Elton, but they were returned to the church on her repudiation by Uchtred.

The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Darlington, page 48
Magnificent mature trees of Skerningham Plantation
Magnificent mature trees of Skerningham Plantation
Gathering to hear David telling us about the history of Skerningham Plantation or ‘Skunny Woods’

From Skerningham Plantation we moved on to the newer, Skerningham Community Woodland, planted around 20 years ago.

Skerningham Community Woodland. On the horizon lies Catkill Lane, which may have been a Roman road linking Sadberge to Binchester, or may have been an even older ancient British trackway. We intend to explore Catkill Lane further in a future post!

It is here that there are some woodland burials, including the burial site of Darlington wildlife artist David Green.

Gathering close to the burial place of David Green

We then passed the site of Skerningham Medieval Village.

The site of Skerningham Medieval Village

More information about the area can be found in David Clark’s History of Skerningham and Charles Percy Nicholson‘s paper Ketton Field Paths, read to the members of the Darlington and Teesdale Naturalists’ Field Club in 1926.

I walked home via the Rock Well to check that the site was still as clear of rubbish as we had left it the previous day. It was, apart from a piece of plastic left near the well itself. I went over to pick it up …

… and found that it wasn’t rubbish but a child’s little plastic windmill like the ones you see at the seaside, planted firmly in the ground. I wondered if our helpers from yesterday had returned and left it as an offering …

by Liz

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