Monday 28 September 2020

The Wokkon and Common Land

The common land of Pulverbatch comprises the Knapp and the Wokkon, 11 acres in all, largely on steeply sloping ground facing south and south-east. The two areas are linked only by a narrow strip of land behind Brook Cottages. The higher ground of the Knapp is a 12th century Norman motte and bailey castle and is a scheduled ancient monument: the monument structure provides a varied topography of slopes facing in all directions and some flat ground. Although the area has no special wildlife status it is a very good site for wildlife, particularly for ephemeral plants (those that can flower and seed early - a strategy for survival on steep, dry slopes which 'burn up' in summer), mammals, reptiles and warblers.

Slow worm

The area lies on Pre-Cambrian sedimentary rock. The ancient monument supports an acid to neutral grassland, the steep motte and bailey slopes have some uncommon ephemeral plants while the flatter areas contain hay meadow species. The lower slopes of the Knapp are scrub and bracken with a very small area of woodland. Similarly, patches along the top of the Wokkon slopes support spring ephemerals in short turf. Most of the Wokkon is dense bracken and tall herb with some scrub and a few young trees; the lower slopes support a large bluebell population. the valley floor has a small stream (dry in summer), some bog and a narrow strip of woodland, with evidence of past coppicing.

There is easy access to the public from Puntley Lane onto the Knapp and the outer bailey makes a seemingly ideal area for a car park when there are few other places in the vicinity to park. It is a popular place for walkers (often with dogs) and with children who may use it for football, grass sledging (an old tradition).

The track along the bottom of the Wokkon may once have been the route for tenants living in Pulverbatch to get to Cothercott Hill (the north end of the Long Mynd) where, under the old manorial system, they had common rights between the 13th and 17th centuries. the liklihood of this is supported by the old name of Outrack along this route which suggests either the existence of an ancient track or a sorting area for animals coming off the hill. The Outrack, subsequently a small area of habitation, was reached via this route prior to the present day access track; both routes are shown on the tithe map of 1839.

The tithe map of 1839 also confirms that what is common land today was so then, but was two acres larger. There were houses at the east end of the Wokkon, as there are today, and one at the west end. Inhabitants must have used this area for grazing and for gathering wood but no details are given. Many of the trees appear to have been coppiced in the past.

The village's common land is managed by the Friends of Castle Pulverbatch, a group of volunteers set up at the instigation of English Heritage. The group has opened up paths to the Wokkon, has fenced the site and planted many new trees and has created a circular route by cutting a new path along the upper edge of the area. This incorporates a lung testing climb and is uneven underfoot but it does provide excellent views towards Paulith Bank and the Stiperstones as well as over the nature reserve of the Wokkon to Cothercott Hill.

Mary Powell's rowan treespacesssssssssssssssssBuilding the Wokkon steps

Note: the name 'Wokkon' may be derived from 'wuk' meaning oak.