The OS map shows the track in a straight line through through wood, heading north-north-east; it is part of a track that ran – almost straight – from Colchester to Cambridge, known as ‘Wool Street’, or maybe, by the Romans, as Via Devana, and also called ‘Worstead Street’. This sounds like a medieval name for a route through the wool producing area to ports for the continent, which was a major market for English wool in the Middle Ages. For a stretch west of Colchester, the track follows the line of the river Colne; it is still visible in Chalkney wood as a hollow way. This seems to continue in a straight line along Tey Road towards Earls Colne, and there have been Roman finds in Earls Colne, suggesting a Roman way of some sort through the village. We walked to the car park just off Tey Road and at first thought the recently surfaced track leading upwards into the wood didn’t look like an ancient track so instead followed the track parallel to it, using the opportunity to take photos of coppicing.
The trees in these woods have been coppiced since the Middle Ages, when they were given by the de Veres to Colne Priory. In the south many of the trees are hazel, but about half are limes. Some of the large stools suggest that individual trees are very old:
and creates a bountiful new crop.
These woods have been a source of material wealth for centuries; the coppiced wood was used for the wattling from which most cottages were built as well as fences, but wood as a source of fuel and charcoal was the main value. But there is another value, one that feeds the soul: the ever-renewing beauty of the woods.
Then we realised that it was the other, parallel track that was the original way through the woods: we saw traces of old ditches on either side, evidence no doubt of when it was a road used by the Romans, although there is a belief that it is a much older trackway.