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Daws Heath Woodland
Pound, Tile and Starvelarks Woods are all on the north facing slope which runs down from Daws Heath to the A127. Little if any of the original heath land now remains but the woods have survived from earlier landscapes.
In the eighteenth century Daws Heath was common land grazed by day and used by smugglers at night. however its value was low and the common was enclosed and cottages built. The woods survived because they were the basis of a thriving local industry of which the Woodmans Arms is a reminder.
Today the woods show the influence of both traditional management and the acid heath land soils of Daws Heath. Beneath the now neglected coppice acid loving plants such as Broom and Cow Wheat flourish.
Pound, Tile and Starvelarks woods are all privately owned and are all managed as Wildlife Reserves by Essex Wildlife Trust. Information about access to the sites can be found on the Essex Wildlife Trust's website.
Starvelarks Wood (managed as part of the Essex Wildlife Trust's Little Havens Nature Reserve) is predominantly Sweet Chestnut coppice; the wood is not shown on early maps and may have been planted at the time of the enclosure of daws Heath Common. the wood is reached by a public footpath from Daws Heath Road. Within the wood the path follows an ancient lane with earth banks on either side. The Wild Service tree which grow on the bank suggest the lane is older than the wood itself. Where power cables pass over the wood there is a strip of coppiced woodland where Broom and Cow Wheat grow in the extra light.
The path passes through the wood and then continues north along a hedge to the A127.
Tile and Pound woods are both owned by the Church Commissioners; formerly they were part of the estate of Westminster Abbey. Fourteenth century manuscripts describe a wood...
"called Tilhurst containing 51 acres in which there is no herbage nor pannage but the underwood in the same is worth 22s per annum".
The large earth banks which mark the boundaries of both woods may well date back to Saxon times.
St Michaels road runs along the eastern boundary of Tile Wood. The woodland beside the road is predominantly Hornbeam coppice; there is a patch of Alder woodland in the west of the wood.
The northern boundary of Tile Wood is thought to abut onto the site of medieval Rayleigh Park. The park pale or boundary would have been made of Oak stakes set on an earth bank designed to keep deer and cattle inside the park.
The park boundary can be traced along a ditch and hedge eastwards between Pound Wood and the A127.
A public footpath runs from St Michaels Road to Bramble Road. the woodland besides the path is carpeted with Ivy; this is typical of woodland which has developed on farmland. Early nineteenth century maps show this as pasture.
Another public footpath runs from the lay by at the top of St Michaels Road along the northern edge of the wood for about 250m before turning across a meadow towards the A127. These fields are rich in wild flowers such as Agrimony, Knapweed, Fleabane and vetches which in late summer attract hundreds of butterflies.
The footpath continues to the A127. here beside the roar of traffic is Old Eastwood Road, an attractive tree lined lane bounded by earth banks with pollarded Oak and Hornbeam, which was once the main road to London.