An historical-ecological investigation of the Goldthorn Wedge, Wolverhampton
The Goldthom Wedge is approximately 627ha. of the original green belt in the western margin of the UK West Midlands conurbation. The present investigation incorporates historical data into the ecological and conservation evaluation of the green Wedge. It aims to define the botanical nature conservation value of the Wedge and to investigate the role of history in bringing about this value. The hypothesis is that the significance of botanical features in the Wedge substantially derives from the length of time that they have existed without significant modification. Phase 1 and Phase 2 ecological surveys were used to identify the plant ecological interest. Historical records and maps from the Anglo Saxon period through to the modem day were used to identify historical features within the landscape. ArcView Geographical Information Systems were used to display and integrate ecological and historical information including the reconstruction of partial or complete ecological phase 1 surveys for different historical periods. The ecological surveys demonstrated that the most important botanical features in the Wedge are the wet grassland vegetation of the Penn Common Golf Course, the three semi-natural deciduous coppices and practically the entire system of hedgerows. The historical investigation showed that almost all these features are of great age. It is suggested that Penn Common has the oldest documented history in the Wedge and that its wet grassland has partially retained some of its original features. The modem coppices appear to be remnants of much more extensive forest lands, but their ecology suggests a greater antiquity than it is possible to prove. Some individual hedgerows were shown to date back as far as the Common and the vast majority ofthe fields are over 160 years old with many over 260 years old providing a living record of the history of the Wedge. The Wedge was shown to have its origins largely as "ancient countryside" rather than that of "planned countryside" (Rack ham, 1995b). The investigation suggested that the integration of the two approaches enhanced the understanding of both the ecology and the history of the landscape and provided a case for the conservation of this landscape in its entirety. The design of future integrated studies and further investigations of the Goldthom Wedge is discussed.