Trees from the past beneath More Hall Reservoir (Part One)

In the Ewden Valley at the turn of the twentieth century.

Once upon a time there was a pristine, wooded valley in the middle of England. Over time ancient humans cleared away most of the trees to create fields for their animals and crops. At the end of the 19th century the lower reaches of this Ewden Valley were covered with fields and not trees but it was still a beautiful and lovely place, from the top of the hills to the river flowing down in the bottom. Nearby was the city of Sheffield, growing rapidly as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution. The industries and populace of Sheffield were thirsty for water, so the Corporation embarked upon an ambitious programme of dam-building in the valleys to the north. Two reservoirs were constructed in Ewden: Broomhead and More Hall. Work started on More Hall Reservoir in 1913, but the First World War caused delays. It was officially opened in 1929.

More Hall Reservoir, winter 2010/2011.
The middle of the reservoir is covered in a thick layer of ice.

The water level in More Hall Reservoir is very low at present, and has been since at least the autumn. I walked around the reservoir on Sunday on land that would normally be completely submerged. There wasn’t a lot to see: lots of mud, a few remnants of old dry stone walls, and a few dozen old tree stumps - trees that were felled almost one hundred years ago, before the reservoir was filled. These stumps have spent the best part of a century underwater and are fairly well preserved. In many places the stumps sit alongside the old stone walls or on the now-desolate banks of the old river, where the water still flows when the reservoir is low. It was quite a sad and eerie walk alone in the drizzle, slipping on the miserable mud and stones that normally lie well below the surface of the reservoir. I tried to imagine the trees that used to grow where today only ghostly stumps remain. I tried to imagine a beautiful alder leaning out over a babbling brook that wound its way merrily through grassy fields. But all I could see was a charred-looking stump jutting from the stony earth beside a dead river.

I didn’t mistake this stump for a lobstrosity, no sir.

This tree’s root still occupies the gap it drove between these two stones (part of a kerb? part of a wall?) over a century ago.

This stump had the remains of a couple of old mushrooms beneath it. A stump spends decades submerged, but no sooner is it left high and dry then the fungi move in!

To be fair, when it’s full up More Hall Reservoir is a nice place on a sunny day. And higher up the Ewden Valley the country gets as wild as one could wish for so close to Sheffield. I love it.

This post is continued in Part Two.

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I will be hosting next month’s edition of the Festival of the Trees. Please send your submissions to mail [at] treeblog [dot] co [dot] uk before the 30th of January, ensuring that you include Festival of the Trees or FOTT within the header. Thanks!

Posted in Gone for a walk

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