HOME PAGE VILLAGE
HISTORIC BUILDINGS CLUBS & SOCIETIES HISTORY PARISH MAP
NATURAL HISTORY:- - A Year in Doddington The Churchyard Birdlife Trees amphibians & reptiles
The information on these pages comes from the excellent Village Appraisal
carried out in 1997.
The origins, with regard to the geology of the region called the North Downs over which our parish boundaries extend, may be of only slight concern to some readers. Therefore, I will try to make it as interesting and informative as possible. To more knowledgeable persons than I, sincere apologies for any misinterpretations I may have made in my appraisal of the subject. I do believe, however, that it is important to be aware of the background of the place in which we live in order to begin to understand its present-day land-use and the geographical phenomena which set it apart from other areas of Kent and beyond.
100 million years ago, the first layers of chalk began to form. At that time, the whole of Kent was under water - covered by the Liassic Sea, which was home to countless microscopic marine plants. It was these tiny organisms which formed the deposits on the bed of the shallow sea - at a rate of 30 feet every 30,000 years. In some areas, beds of chalk, compressed by successive layers, became over 600 feet thick. Sponges, trapped amongst the deposits of calcium carbonate, were squashed by the weight. They formed air-holes which were later filled with silica; compressed even more, they created flint - which can be found everywhere in the Parish.
Extensive volcanic activity was believed to have been the reason for the large uplift of land out of the sea. The Wealden Island - the result - was created 65 million years ago and extended over much of Kent and the other southern home counties. Our parish is covered with various pebbles, worn and rounded, thought to have been deposited by the retreating sea. Over time, the top of the island dome has been eroded to expose the layers of rock underneath the chalk in the present-day Weald. This process has left the distinctive steep, scarp slope of the Downs on the south side; all the high areas are found on chalk which, although soft and porous, is surprisingly resistant to natural erosion.
On the gentle, dip slope of the Downs, on which Doddington is situated, dry valleys (devoid of streams) were created in the last Ice Age. Whilst most of England was covered in ice, hundreds of feet thick, the south east was not affected by glacial erosion. Instead, the processes which further shaped the Downs were due to what is known as 'periglaciation'; during winter months, the ground and top layers of chalk were frozen, but summer temperatures - often rising above freezing - allowed melt-water streams to form. These could move over the still-frozen, lower rock layers - a process called 'soliflution'. Together with streams, soliflution is believed by many geographers to have eroded the familiar dry valleys. The landscape has changed little since the end of the Ice Age, 10,000 years ago - further erosion of the chalk was reduced by the unobstructed and extensive growth of forest that followed.
An unsolved mystery of chalk downland geology is the existence of 'dene holes', several of which can be located in Doddington. These deep, vertical excavations have been explained as early chalk quarries, as underground storage facilities and as natural geological occurrences. The true origins are still not known.
Today, all of the virgin forest has been cleared. Even the 'ancient woodlands' which are coppiced in the Parish are believed to be less than 500 years old - probably planted by early woodsmen. Over the years, the water table has also changed - greatly reduced by either human over-use, climatic change, or both. There are no surface reservoirs on the Downs because the chalk acts as a water reserve (or aquifer), somewhat like a sponge. Spring lines on the sides of the dry valley, where early settlements grew up, denoted the level of the water table - but wells along the line have long since dried up. However, close to The Street in Doddington, a few wells can still access the reserve.
This page sponsored by:
F.D. Attwood & Partners, Thrognal Farm
Before the 1950's, the changes in land-use were gradual - like those of the geology. The advent of modern farming practises and changes in agricultural policy since the war, however, have dramatically altered the appearance of every part of Britain's landscape. In our parish, particular effects have been:
the reduction of orchards due to economic and political
the loss of herb-rich downland due to its replacement with higher-yield, improved grassland;
the extensive move from small-scale to agribusiness farming, creating a 'monoculture';
the loss of hedgerows, ponds and marginal areas.
With new awareness, however, physical changes to the detriment of the traditional countryside have slowed over recent years. Land-owners have been encouraged by official bodies and social trends to view their responsibilities concerning the environment in a new light. Tree-planting for coppicing, replacing and repairing hedges and, in the case of Doddington Place, establishing a land-use regime free from artificial chemical use are several examples of the recent drive to create a more diverse ecosystem.
[Picture: X]Henry Cuthbert planting broad beans at Palace Farm, Oct. 1994. ALPHA MASON
The trend for more and more control of the countryside, on a national and global scale, is unlikely to cease. However, we can hope that future implementations of such control may prove to be positive, rather than negative, in our own parish.
Chris Mason, 1997
This page sponsored by:
Old Mill Cottage B&B, Tel: 01795 886246
HOME PAGE VILLAGE APPRAISAL