Snowy Memories of Chopwell

Philippa is a PhD student in Geography at Newcastle University. She has been working in collaboration with Land of Oak & Iron on her research project about landscape and memory, looking at how people pass memories on across generations within local communities and how people feel about local heritage.

This is Philippa’s blog she would like to share.

Over the last few months I have been lucky enough to spend some time in Chopwell interviewing people about their experiences and the places that are important to them and their families. It is very clear that Chopwell Wood is a huge part of people’s lives and everyone I spoke to talked about how much they enjoy spending time there and what an important part of Chopwell’s history it is – from providing the timber for the Spanish Armada to Boxing Day walks for local families.

One of the things that people talked about a lot was memories of when it snowed in the village and I thought this was particularly appropriate for this time of year. Some people talked about how they would set off into the snow, kitted out not just with sturdy wellies but also “two pairs of socks and a plastic bag” to keep the wet out.

But it wasn’t just the Wood that provided good opportunities for sledging and snowballing:

“the wood, that was an absolute playground. And, up here, above the river streets was the pit heaps, the slag heaps which went right along the tops of the streets…we used to slide down them on anything we could get our hands on. Old shovels, I’ve sat on a shovel and slid down. I mean they were just huge…towered way above the houses and they were just brilliant, they were just fun.”

As well as the pit heaps the green was a focal point for people to take advantage of the weather:

“In the winter months…you used to have really deep winters then, and the green was covered in snow and people used to come from all over the village…and we used to make a slide…The coal bags, the plastic coal bags, they were the fastest things and you used to sit on the coal bag and go down the bank”.

It was great to hear about people’s memories of Chopwell and to see how important the Wood is to local people. There have been opportunities for sledging and snowballing again this year. Local resident Jane Watson took these photos, showing what a beautiful place Chopwell Wood is, even in the depths of winter.

I will be continuing my research in different areas of Land of Oak & Iron and am looking forward to speaking to people across the area. If you would like to find out more about my project you can read about it here or email me, I’d love to hear from you!