Domesday Book (1088) provides only a summary inventory of people, farm animals and land for each parish. It does not mention small areas or individual fields.
From the 12th century to its dissolution in 1537 the Benedictine Abbey of Walden made inventories of its extensive lands and provided detail of the creation of Noakes Grove and how it got its name that it still bears today.
These medieval documents have been studied in detail by Dorothy Cromarty (full unpublished thesis in Saffron Walden Town Library and summary in “The Fields of Saffron Walden in 1400” published by the Essex Record Office). Her study shows that one Nokes was given permission to make a virgate holding by clearing woodland near St Aylots. At that time there were large area of woodland that had disappeared by 1600. Keburdey Wood was 100 acres just south of Hales Wood and was probably the woodland from which Nokes felled his virgate. A virgate is believed to be about thirty acres and this would correspond with our Noakes field and Noakes Grove and some other, larger, plots to the east of Redgates Lane also with names (like Little Noakes) indicating they were once part of the same holding. Some later documents indicate that the Nokes family lived in a cottage on what is now our “Docks and Nettles” field beside Redgates Lane. Later records show that our “Arbury” field was not part of Nokes land but we don't know when it was created or by whom.
In 1400 most farms had large field, farmed in strips. Later these were enclosed and new hedges planted around each field. This was not the case with Nokes land: Cromarty says “A few of these tenements, e.g. Nokes, were obviously taken from the woodland and worked in closes from the beginning....” So the hedges around Nokes Grove were probably not planted but simply are bits of the original woodland that were left when the fields were created.
We have no record of how Nokes farmed his land but he probably had some sheep, as sheep-farming was a major industry in the Walden area at that time. The sheep were farmed mainly for their wool so they would certainly have been nothing like our Wiltshire Horn sheep that do not need shearing.