From the 16th to the 19th Centuries the woodlands around Abbots Reading were busy places. Charcoal burners coppiced the woodland, a process which involved repeatedly harvesting young tree stems. Many trees make new growth from the stem if cut down; new shoots emerge and, after a number of years, the shoots are ready to be harvested and the cycle begins again. To create charcoal for the local iron industry, sections of woodland would be harvested over a cycle of around 16 years; the coppice poles would be burned on specially created platforms, a pitstead, carved out of the hillsides. There is a pitstead just the other side of the wall in the photograph of the step stile. Blast furnaces had a voracious appetite for charcoal, the nearest furnace being at Backbarrow which operated on charcoal until 1921.
But charcoal burners were not the only people in the woodlands. Bark peelers stripped the bark from coppice poles; the tannin in the bark of oak and some other trees was used in the local leather industry. There is an old bark barn near Abbots Reading Farm where the bark was stored and dried and the nearest tannery was at Rusland, now maintained as an ancient monument by the Lake District National Park Authority. In addition to charcoal burning and bark peeling, bracken and other brash was burned in potash kilns in the woodlands to create a constituent of lye, a form of soap used in washing wool for the local woollen trade.