Guest blog by: Mercedes Planas, Woodland Creation Historic Environment Officer (WCHEO)

The Forest Creation team at the Forest of Marston Vale Trust and King’s Oak Primary School worked together to redesign the school’s playing fields. Funding for the transformation of this area, which involves planting trees, wood pasture and meadow areas, has been made possible through the Trees for Climate woodland creation programme. The Forest Creation Team, working alongside myself, Mercedes Planas, Woodland Creation Historic Environment Officer (WCHEO), have planted on King’s Oak Primary School’s land with sustainable practices in mind (Figure 1). Planting trees in this area will contribute to carbon dioxide absorption and will produce oxygen. Creating a small woodland here will also help to mitigate the effects of climate change, prevent soil erosion, regulate water cycles, and support local biodiversity, all while avoiding or reducing impacts on the present historic environment. 


Figure 1 - A draft design of the planting scheme

Exploring the archaeology of a site

The historic environment is the physical evidence of past human activity and can include below and above ground archaeological sites, monuments, buildings, and historic landscapes. Some of these may be protected by law (also called ‘designated’) but the majority are not, and some may not have yet even been identified. My collaboration with the Forest of Marston Vale will ensure that the planting of trees, meadow and wood pasture areas do not damage the site’s historic environment. 

Whilst there is no known buried archaeology in the proposed tree planting areas, there is always the possibility that remains are present, particularly as extensive Iron Age and Roman archaeology has been discovered previously in the vicinity of the school, including pottery kilns. Old maps and photos of the area show that the southern part of the playing fields has remained mostly undisturbed since at least the late Victorian times and so any surviving archaeology may be well preserved. 

Archaeology meets tree planting

To test whether any archaeology survives in the planting areas, a geophysical magnetometer survey was undertaken on a drizzling Saturday morning in November 2023 by The Community Archaeology Geophysics Group (CAGG) led by Dr Kris Lockyear, Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology at UCL. The magnetometer survey is a widely used technique to collect archaeological data and offers rapid ground coverage, recording a variety of anomalies caused by past human activity. A survey like this is ideal for locating remains associated with pottery manufacture such as kilns. The survey covered the whole of King’s Oak Primary School playing grounds, some 2.4 hectares in total. 


Photo's 1, 2 & 3: Volunteers of The Community Archaeology Geophysics Group setting up the equipment and carrying out the survey

Results from the geophysical magnetometer revealed potential features that may be of archaeological interest (Figure 2). Figure 3 below shows how these features show up on the geophysical magnetometer survey, shown by the red arrows. The red arrows highlight features such as the black straight line seen in the left side of the field and how this coincides with an old field boundary (hedges). The curvilinear and circular lines could be older ditches and the white wriggly black line that crosses the playing fields is indicating where an old ditch has been backfilled with bricks. And of course, the survey has detected goal posts all over the fields (showing in the results as black dots with white halo).


Figure 2: Results of the geophysical survey

Figure 3: Interpretation of the results

All in all, these results show no signs of ‘designated’ ruins such as kilns on site. This is good news for us and King’s Oak Primary School as it gave us all the go ahead to get planting. Planting trees is the priority for the Forest of Marston Vale Trust. However, working with specialists at the planning stage of a new woodland allows the Woodland Creation Officers to make knowledgeable decisions about where best to plant – allowing history and woodlands to exist in unison.  

After planning and analysis, trees were planted at Kings Oak Primary School on 16th and 17th January 2024. Teachers and children at the school joined to plant trees throughout the two days. 350 trees were planted over the 2 days, with 600 people (children, teachers, and volunteers) involved.


“Thank so much for you and your team’s hard work and support over the last two days. All teachers and children have spoken positively about the experience, and I am glad that was finally got this project completed”Teacher coordinator at Kings Oak Primary School.


Planting trees is one of the most positive legacies you can leave on your land. 

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