Pleasley Park Earthworks

 

Much has been written about the origins of the Pleasley Park Earthworks. In 1780 Major Hayman Rooke, a very experienced antiquarian, identified what he considered to be Roman fortifications stretching east to west across the Park, a distance of 240 yards. However, his exciting discovery of Northfield Roman Villa the same year, appears to have stretched his imagination and that of his peers. They would certainly have known that Roman fortifications and even temporary marching camps had 4 sided defences rather than a simple deep ditch & ramparts. Pleasley Park was not the only site to get the Roman seal of approval. He also claimed that Whinney Hill, between Peafield Lane and Outgang Lane, off Leeming Lane in Mansfield Woodhouse, was a Roman temporary fortification. Interestingly, the Victorian publishers embellished Rooke’s original drawings of the site by adding their own earth rampart. In David Bradbury’s book, The Villa and the Vale he redraws the site using Rooke’s original sketches and discovers that he had the angle of Peafield Lane completely wrong. He also discovered that Rooke identified the steep bank south of Outgang Lane as a fall when it is infact a rise! Basically, Rooke was wrong, the Romans would have never sited a legion of around 5000 soldiers below higher ground where the enemy could rain down on them. Additionally, antiquities have not been found at the site similar to other temporary camps such as Gleadthorpe further north along Leeming Lane.

In 2001 the Sherwood Archeological Society dismissed Rookes conclusions, ascribing the earthworks to extensive logging and limestone extraction together with subsidence caused by collapsing fissures in the limestone bedrock. However, they found conclusive evidence of deer-leaps confirming its use as a medieval hunting park for the Lords of the Manor.

The Pleasley Vale conservation area appraisal, states that Pleasley Park had been felled to help with the war effort in 1914-18 and wasn’t replanted until the 1930’s. This would help to explain the many humps & hollows in the Park caused by subsidence through rotting tree roots. Incidentally, Stuffynwood Hall site has probably the oldest tree in the Vale. These photos show the roots of this ash tree growing around the limestone rock face, while above, taking a tape measure 1.5m from the ground, the girth measures a tad under 4m. The other large trees, particularly the line of trees growing along the carriage track are barely 2.5m in girth. So using this guide published by the Leicestershire CC, if we take the planting date of the trees lining the carriage track as 1857 (the date when Paget celebrated the completion of Stuffynwood Hall) then we have a girth growth rate of 1.7cm per year. Using the same maths to calculate the age of the tree with a 4m girth, then we have a date of 1773. Additionally, the detailed 1835 Sanderson map indicates trees growing at the very site.