If you go down to the woods today…

Last weekend my other half and I decided to go for a walk in St. Leonards Forest to get some fresh air and stretch our legs. 

Because it was quite mild for January, my other half said he would like to find the lake he used to fish when he was a boy. The lake used to be part of a syndicate called Pinewood Angling Club, which unfortunately is no longer running and hasn’t been for some years (probably closed in the mid 2000’s from my research on a Angling forum). 

After much searching using Google Maps, I found the lake with no name: Lake with no name.

My other half described the lake as being surrounded by trees, with a high fence and gate and that the whole area was hidden from view. This is no longer the case: http://www.geolocation.ws/v/W/4d76d32e87865614d5006049/pond-on-higbirch-hill-the-pond-appears/en. This area of West Sussex is prone to Rhododendrons, and several green groups have been clearning the area of these pesky intrusive plants. This leaves the area a bit barren, but will allow the woodland to revive over time.

It took us a while to find the site, but when we did, we had a good look round and discovered some interesting features:

I continued to research the Lake with no name using some old OS maps and discovered that the site was dug sometime between 1875  and 1879. In the 1897 map the Lake was labelled as a reservoir, and it’s sluice was also marked followed by a number (347-994 although I don’t know what the number means). The area above this Lake is called Stonelodge Plain, and the area below is Highbirch Hill.

This area of West Sussex was very important in the Wealden Iron Industry, and many lakes were used as Hammer or Furnace Ponds in the production of Iron. For more information about Hammer Ponds this is a brilliant site: http://www.hammerpond.org.uk/index.htm

Could it be that this Lake, fed by a natural spring, was a pen or feeder pond for one of the Hammer Ponds in the area?

After walking round the Lake to the opposite bank, I found an area with a lot of loose bricks. On of these had a stamp: Sussex Brick & Estates Co Ltd, more info can be found under the Sussex Brick & Estates entry here: http://www.penmorfa.com/bricks/england20.html. Richard Symonds from Horsham District Archaeology Group gave me some additional information:  The brick is a Southwater brick – Sussex Brick & Estates Co Ltd  – part of the Warnham brick Co  – who were in competition with the other Southwater company at Southwater Park. The SB&EC had its pit adjacent to Kirsty’s Wood, or thereabouts, and is relatively recent. So for the construction to have been made of these bricks must in itself be relatively recent.