In 1086, at the time of the Doomsday Survey, large areas of what is now East Lancashire were woodland waste. “Much of the woodland had gone by the end of the mediaeval centuries, … to the extent that the North West became one of the less wooded regions of England. … However, the increasing value of woodland for charcoal production from the 15th and 16th centuries led to strict management of smaller patches of woodland as enclosed coppice woods.” [England’s Landscape – The North West, Angus Winchester, 2006]. In 1610, a survey and valuation of woodlands belonging to the Duchy in the county was made and this shows most of the trees in East Lancashire had gone. It was reported that in Rossendale Forest and Colne Parish there were no trees at all worth marking. At Towneley there were 80 oak and ash and around twice the number belonging to Towneley across the Calder in Brunshaw. [National Archives DL 43/17/12].
Many more trees were being planted at Towneley after 1610 as can be seen on the Hamilton maps of 1661. When Ralph Thoresby visited in 1702, he reported “great plenty of very fine firs, which they have learnt to propagate by slips“.