High hills surround the valley, encircling
it like a crown.
These are clothed by trees of various sorts and maintain in
pleasant retreats the privacy of the vale, providing for the
monks a kind of second paradise of wooded delight.(1)
Monasteries that had a lot of woodland might appoint a forester
to oversee the work. Some foresters were monks, some lay-brothers.
A lay-brother who
was a forester of Rievaulx was beaten up in 1285 when the abbot's
house was broken into at Harlsey.
[Williams, The Cistercians in the Early Middle Ages,
p. 318; Burton, 'Estates and economy', p. 61.]
Daniel's lyrical description of Rievaulx in the twelfth century
suggests that the abbey precinct was at this time surrounded by
woodland. Woodland afforded shelter and privacy, but also provided
valuable resources including charcoal for burning in the forges,
as well as building materials such as timber and thatch. It could
also be used as pasturage for animals, particularly pigs, which
could graze on acorns and beech nuts here. In the late twelfth century,
Bernard de Balliol gave the monks pasture rights in his forests
at Teesdale and Westerdale. His grant included the right to keep
sixty brood mares in the forest of Teesdale and also to make lodges
and folds in both places. The abbey had also at this time grazing
rights in the forest of Helmsley; thirteenth-century acquisitions
included grazing rights in Swaledale.