Since moving back to Plymouth in the summer of 2020 I have enjoyed daily walks with the dogs around the area in which I grew up. I regularly pass the three schools I attended, my parents’ home, streets on which I played football, pieces of tarmac on which I became engaged in scuffles (and lost), and pubs in which I drank my first pints of lager (all of these pubs now, sadly, demolished). I previously wrote a post about Mount Tamar View, the area on which I currently live, and so this post focuses on a fantastic green space that I visit regularly: King’s Tamerton Woods.
The first thing to note is that these woods did not exist when I was a boy. This fascinates me, because this sizable wooded area is filled with trees; it serves as a sanctum away from the constant noise of the A38 that straddles it and the wider world. However, back in the 1990s the location was a collection of fields beside the King’s Tamerton housing estate. I remember enjoying an “adventure” through the fields when I was 9 or 10 with a group of friends, because we had become interested in what lay amongst all of the wide open space that we could see from the playground of our junior school. Presumably these fields would have been, technically, off limits to anyone. Whereas today the woods serve as an open door for anyone to enjoy a stroll.
The local council has done a fantastic job in creating a nature reserve in the area, amounting to the size of eight full-sized football pitches. The website notes how the trees were planted ‘approximately 20 years ago as a community woodland’, with the pathways being upgraded in 2014. It also includes ‘grassland, hedgerows, immature planted broadleaf woodland and scrub’, whilst various birds, insects, and wildflowers can be viewed whilst walking through.
The woods plays an important function in the local area, particularly due to the lack of green space in this area of St. Budeaux. So much urban expansion over the past one hundred years has destroyed the old green village communities of St. Budeaux and King’s Tamerton, with the A38 cutting through the old fabric of this area; therefore, it is encouraging to see a slight reverse in this direction with the creation of the woods. This connects to its vision statement:
Kings Tamerton Woods will be a locally appreciated and easily accessible nature reserve. It will
have well maintained pathways leading visitors through the maturing meadows, woodland and
orchards. The site will be sustainable, resilient, supported and provide maximum potential for
wildlife and people. Protected and managed through Local Nature Reserve designation with wildlife
conservation and people as the priority.
On walking through the area I had a burning question: what was here before three decades ago? Yes, as I noted above, there were fields, but these fields must have belonged to someone. The 2018 Management Plan notes how the woods was created on the site of a former farm, but an initial internet search to find details about this farm were fruitless. Thankfully I was given an answer on a Facebook page (Friends of King Tamerton Woods): Coombe Farm.
Fragmentary traces – almost echoes – of its former life will reveal itself at certain places whilst walking through. Firstly, there is the old road that leads from one of the entrances that seems as if it was part of the former use, and there are ruins of buildings on the eastern section once a walker leaves the woods.
Other questions remain: what historical role did the farm and the location play in the former life of St. Budeaux village? Was the farm a thriving or locally important one and if so was its demise due to the post-war urban expansion of Plymouth and the arrival of the A38 dual carriageway in the 1980s? I will attempt to find answers to these questions in the near future. In the meantime, I will continue enjoying these woods; they have been a great help – mentally and physically – during this period of lockdown.