Woodland link between Yorkshire village’s past and present

PIC: James Hardisty
PIC: James Hardisty
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As a walker strolls through the woods near Stutton, Tadcaster, the winter sun warms the bare trees.

As it does, it gives the smallest of hints that the seasons will soon be changing and spring will be on its way.

Stutton lies in the valley of the Cock Beck and it is a village which can trace its roots back to ancient times. Likely founded by a Viking settler named Stufi in the late 9th century, by the time of William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book in 1086 it boasted a mill, meadow and this woodland. From Norman times until the turn of the 20th century, a substantial part of the village was owned by the Vavasour family of Hazlewood Castle and it remained relatively unchanged until a major housing development was completed in the 1970s.

The area is famous for its milk white magnesium limestone quarried since Roman times and used in the construction of York Minster and much local property.

The marshy area in the village close to the Cock Beck also contained many willow groves and willow harvesting, drying and stripping was a cottage industry until the 1930s.

However, Stutton hasn’t been immune from the wider changes which transformed the North into an industrial power house. In 1847 the railways arrived in this corner of the county, linking the village with both York and Harrogate.

No expense was spared in the construction of the Tudor-style station building, which was designed by the famous railway architect George Townsend Andrews, a close associate of George Hudson the ‘Railway King’.

However, Stutton was too small to make passenger trains commercially successful and the station closed to all but the odd holiday charter in 1905. Some railway staff remained and the parish council held meetings in the waiting room, but in 1964 the whole line was closed to passenger traffic and two years later, as part of the controversial Beeching cuts, the last goods train passed through Stutton.

While much has changed in the last 100 years, the woods where the seasons come and go as they always have are a reminder of the village’s earliest times.

Picture: James Hardisty

Words: Grace Hammond

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