This wood lies along the course of the brook which runs below Hall Lane and Little Hall Lane Farms in Daresbury. It doesn’t appear on the 1840s tithe maps, but by 1875 it is shown as a small wood, and then, on the O.S. map of 1910, we can see that it has expanded considerably, and is identified as Mort’s Wood.
So, who planted it, and who is Mort? A look at the 1851 census has the answer, because James Mort was the tenant farmer at Little Hall Lane Farm.
He was born in Barrow, near Chester, in 1808, the son of Charles and Hannah. He married Martha Basnett in 1831 in Runcorn, and appeared first on the census, in Norton, working as an agricultural labourer. He then spent the rest of his life living and farming in Daresbury until his death in 1886. He was well known in the area, and at the annual show of the Daresbury and Frodsham Farmer’s Club in 1854, he was awarded the prize for the best cultivated farm of not less than 50 statute acres. The prize money, at that time, was £4.
James always appears as MORT in the census records, but when he was baptised and married his name is recorded as MALT in the registers. However the change came about, Mort was how he was known in the area. It’s the name on his headstone in the churchyard, and it’s the name given to the wood established on the land he farmed.
One of our older residents in Hatton remembers the wood being called ‘Bluebell Wood’. There was a track and stile leading up to it. The stream that flows along its length must have been very clean, as she talks about going there to pick watercress. This is typical of streams in the area. One which flows through the village of Hatton was fed by a series of springs and water cress could be collected from a point behind Factory Yard. She also remembers Mr Bannister, who, she says, had a stick with a red hanky and went into the wood to have a shave in the stream – no running water in houses at that time, I guess.
We know that good mushrooms grew nearby at least in the mid 20th century, because another villager remembers her father collecting a capful to have with breakfast.
Today, a permissive footpath from Hall Lane to Common Side farm (St Elphin’s) leads through part of the wood. The footpath can be accessed for most of the year, apart from Saturdays during the shooting season and during the music festival in August.