ROE WOOD AND
LITTLE ROE WOOD
These two separate but nearby woodlands are located in the Fir Vale area of Sheffield, roughly 3 kilometres north of the city centre and near to the Northern General Hospital. Roe Wood, which is the northernmost of the two woodlands is also the largest. With the adjoining area of Crabtree Ponds this area represents the most important wildlife reservoir in North Sheffield.
The woodlands are first recorded as part of continuous block of woodland known as ‘Cockshutt Rowe’ in a document dating from around 1600 which listed the Earl of Shrewsbury's coppice woodlands. This clearly shows Roe and Little Roe Woods to be ancient woodland, meaning that they have been in existence for at least the last 400 years. A ‘cockshot’ was a term used to refer to an opening cut through a wood to allow gamebirds such as woodcock to be caught in nets. It occurs in several place names around Sheffield. The meaning of ‘Rowe’ is not certain. It may mean the same as ‘rough’ meaning an area of scrubby woodland, or it may come from the Norse word ‘ruth’ meaning a clearing.
Following the 17th century, woodland clearance reduced the area of Cockshutt Rowe and split it into two fragments, Great and Little Roe Woods. Great Roe Wood (now Roe Wood) is known to have been managed as coppice until the end of the 19th century. It was divided into compartments or sections and the trees in each one were cut down close to the ground in a ten year rotation. New shoots which could be used as poles would shoot from the stools or stumps. Regularly coppiced trees can live for hundreds of years. Since 1993 when Sheffield Wildlife Trust took over the management of the wood, an area of the wood has been managed as coppice once more.
In the 18th century the woods came into the ownership of the Duke of Norfolk. It was the 11th Duke who, in the Queen’s Jubilee year of 1897 when he became Sheffield’s first Lord Mayor, presented Roe Wood to the City as a public open space. For a while after this the wood became known as Victoria Park. Records suggest that, up to this time, the wood was dominated by oak along with some ash and alder. Right until the end of the 19th century the wood was still being managed, for in 1890 some 12 tons of oak bark was stripped and sold to a Barnsley tannery. Unfortunately many of the woodland's mature oaks were killed by pollution and felled in the 1950s.
Even more to be regretted was the destruction of the site of a hillfort dating from Romano/British times which was cleared when the sports ground was constructed just to the north of the wood in 1923. The camp consisted of an oval ditch surrounding an area of 3/4 acre with an indistinct rampart. Within the area a number of finds of Roman pottery and coins had been made.
Little Roe Wood is dominated by sycamore but also contains a variety of other trees including oak, beech, ash, lime, horse chestnut, poplar, willow, field maple and elm.
The two woodlands are situated in an area with very little other woodland or open ground and because of this have a vital role in providing space for recreation. Roe Wood has a good system of footpaths, including some access for people with disabilities. Footpaths in Little Roe Wood, though they exist, are less good and there is currently no access for people with disabilities.
Under the Fuelling a Revolution programme, woodland restoration and access improvement work is taking place to restore Roe and Little Roe Woods to their former glory and to maximise their potential as a recreational and educational resource. Some thinning, group felling and coppicing will be carried out in order to create a more varied woodland structure and to encourage the regeneration of native species such as oak and hazel. Sycamore, a non-native and highly invasive species, will be particularly favoured for removal. Areas of Japanese Knotweed, another non-native and highly invasive species, are present and these will be controlled.
Access to the woods will be improved by upgrading their path systems. A particular focus of this will be to increase access for people in wheelchairs. Work is also required to reduce problems of litter, fly tipping and vandalism in the form of fires. Boundaries of the wood are being reinforced by the construction of post and rail fencing along with metal barriers to prevent access by unauthorised vehicles. Finally, the potential of the site as an educational and recreational resource is being developed through guided walks, events relating to the natural history and historic interest of the site, children's events and practical management tasks.
A Nature Walk Through the Ancient Woodland Habitats of North Sheffield.
The start of this surprising walk is the entrance to Crabtree Ponds at the corner of Barnsley Road and Crabtree Close. There is ample on street parking at this point.
This small area of wood in the late 19th century was the grounds of a house called Crabtree Lodge. The house, which stood on the site of the care home, was demolished in 1946 but the ornamental pond which stood in its grounds, survives. The diversity of pond life which lives here makes it the best site of its kind in north Sheffield. In 1973 it was acquired by Sheffield City Council and since 1989, when local people had become concerned about the neglected state of the pond, it has been managed by Sheffield Wildlife Trust.
During the 1990s many hours of conservation work were put in by concerned residents, volunteers and the Wildlife Trust members to create the delightful environment that we see today. A boardwalk has been built alongside the pond giving access for all this wildlife haven and paths connect it to the entrance to Little Roe Wood.
The zoology section of Sheffield City Museum carried out a survey back in 1980 during which they discovered over 30 species of invertebrate living in the pond including pond skaters, six types of beetles, dragonflies water scorpions and pond snails. Frogs, toads and smooth newts all breed and roach, perch and sticklebacks can be seen.
The edges of the pond have been graded to create a natural edge and planted with wetland flowers such as marsh marigold, iris and plantains.
In the evening both pipistrelle bats and the rarer Leisler’s bat can be spotted hawking for insects over the pond.
The sycamores around the pond have been thinned to increase the diversity and let more light through the canopy. Other trees and shrubs such as hawthorn and hazel, which provide food for animals and birds, have been planted. Away from the pond, along the path, there are bluebells and cow parsley. Some deadwood has been left to encourage insects and fungi.
Not surprisingly a great variety of birds have been attracted to Crabtree. You can expect to see robins, tits, dunnocks, jays, wrens, treecreepers and woodpeckers. In summer there are chiffchaffs and blackcaps.
The path on the opposite side of the pond emerges onto Crabtree road. Turn right and walk along until you reach a narrow jennel on the left.
On the way you will pass Rose Cottage, a stone built house which dates way back to about 1650. Part of this house has links to the tannery which was located on the far side of the stream at the intersection of Crabtree Road.
From the jennel turn left and carefully cross Norwood Road and enter Little Roe Wood through the stone gateway.
Little Rowe Wood
area to this area of woodland was formerly a garden and contains a number
of introduced species. Look out for flowering cherry, laburnum and false
acacias. The track you are following used to give access to Roe Wood Cottage,
the Duke of Norfolk’s woodsman’s house. There is nothing to
see of this house except some rubble in the undergrowth to the right of
There is a large mature yew tree beside the pond. Notice how nothing grows underneath it because of the dense shade.
The path beyond this takes you into the proper wood which was once actively managed as a coppice or springwood by the Duke of Norfolk’s staff.
As you walk along the path notice the different types of ferns that grow in the damp places. The type of fern called the male fern has spore under the leaves which are covered in distinctive gold coloured coverings like scales. Other species of plants here, such as yellow archangel, indicate that this is an area of ancient woodland. Look out for brambles which are especially valuable as food plants for caterpillars and cover for animals.
After the bridge the path takes you out of Little Roe Wood. Turn right and follow the path into the top of Great Roe Wood.
Turn right into the wood. This is a very different type of wood from Little Roe. Since 1993 this area has been coppiced by the Wildlife Trust. The wood has been put to a variety of uses such as charcoal burning and turning on a pole laithe.
Oak trees have been regerating in this area very rapidly since the 1960s. Many of the twigs have ‘oak apples’, round hard growths which contain the larva of a tiny gall wasp.
Walk down the wider path towards Norwood Road. The woodland here is composed of mixed species of trees and is of a more open nature. Alongside the small streams grow a number of wetland plants such as meadowsweet, yellow pimpernel and great willow herb.
The northern end of the wood is dominated by beech trees rather than oaks and these cast such a deep shade that little will grow beneath them. Towards the northern end, alongside Fairbank Road, there is an avenue of beech trees which were planted when the wood first became a recreation ground in 1898.
In autumn there are many varieties of fungus in the wood with strange names such as shaggy ink cap, jew’s ear and destroying angel.
The exit from
the bottom of the wood takes you out onto Norwood Road, near the Northern
Other nearby Heritage Woodlands are: