Jones's Rough

Shropshire Botanical Society Newsletter - Spring 1999 - page 10

Ruth Dawes

 

Jones's Rough is a very old eight acre wood on the outskirts of the village of Nantmawr, near Oswestry. The first impression upon entering the wood is one of gloom and darkness due to the unusually high number of Yew trees, Taxus baccata, mixed with Wild Cherry, Prunus avium, and Hazel, Corylus avellana. The Yew are probably native here on this steep slope where the underlying Carboniferous limestone outcrops. Perhaps the Yew survived the woodman's axe due to superstition or the difficulty in cutting its very hard wood.

Under the trees you will find the fragrant shrub Spurge Laruel, Daphne laureola, and the Stinking Hellebore, Helleborus foetidus. Snails are fond of the seeds of the Stinking Hellebore, but also help the plant to colonise new areas as some of the seeds will stick to the predator's slime and be transported to new ground. It is a deeply poisonously cathartic plant, but was once used as a cure for worms in children. Gilbert White remarked "Where it killed not the patient, it could certainly kill the worms, but the worst of it is, it would sometimes kill both!"

Very close to Jones's Rough, in one of the area's typically narrow lanes which are so good for spring flora, is a house called "Mount Zion" which plays a strong part in the folk-history of the wood. The cottage was "put up" without permission in the 1860s by the Jones family on land belonging to the Powys estates. Cottages were sometimes built in this way at that time under the belief "that if there was smoke coming from the chimney by morning the builders could claim the dwelling as their home." The landowner ultimately claimed ownership and charged rent, also carrying out repairs. There was a small amount on land with the cottage, including woodland, so the wood became known as "Jones's Rough." The small stony pastures in and around the wood were only suitable for subsistence farming and were cut for hay early in the year before the steep ground became burnt-up. The cottages would carry out this cutting early in the morning before going out to their day jobs and then return to gather the hay and carry it loose on poles to a stack. Kindling was collected in Jones's Rough for the bread oven which still exists at Mount Zion. Hazel nuts were gathered in the autumn and sold in Oswestry market and moss was collected to make wreaths. Two brothers who lived in a cottage on the Moelydd Hill above Jones's Rough kept open a path through the wood to the village of Nantmawr which is now the Offa's Dyke footpath.

In the 1950s the Powys estate offered the Jones family the chance to buy the property for 400, but they declined and continued to pay rent (at that time five shillings per week) until the granddaughter of the original "owners" finally left through poor health in the 1970s. The cottage (which had no deeds until it was sold) was purchased by local naturalists' Mr & Mrs Johnson, who initially leased Jones's Rough to the Shropshire Wildlife Trust as a nature reserve. They completely transferred the reserve to the Trust in 1998.

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