The Woodland Trust has produced a management guide for landowners to help them look after our most precious natural heirlooms.
Ancient woods, areas continuously wooded since at least 1600, are some of our most valuable natural habitats. They cover only around 2% of the UK and are home to rare and threatened species.
The wildlife in many ancient woods will thrive if the woods are left alone, but where landowners wish to maximise the potential of their land for other purposes – game, timber, or woodfuel, for example – this needn’t be in conflict with the interests of wildlife conservation if carefully handled.
Conservation Policy Officer and guide author Fran Hitchinson explains the importance of the booklet: "Ancient woods are uniquely valuable and we believe their features should be maintained and enhanced where possible. We hope that this guide can help landowners look after their woods as they go about their day-to-day business."
The Woodland Trust’s ancient woodland management guide provides a simple toolkit to help landowners identify four key features of ancient woodland and to ensure they are protected during any management work.
These features have been able to develop in ancient woods because they have been relatively undisturbed over hundreds of years, and they would therefore also take a long time to replace:
- Ancient woods often contain a rich and characteristic range of woodland plants.
- Ancient woodland soils are valuable due to their origin and history i.e. a lack of farming and fertiliser application. They are likely to be alive with fungi, insects and worms.
- Old trees and deadwood are valuable in themselves, but also for the species that call them home – bats, lichens and mosses for example.
- Finally, ancient woods have been providing for humans for centuries, so naturally many human traces will remain. These may include remnants of built structures, coppiced trees or even traces of the woods’ use for fuel, hunting or keeping livestock.
The Trust’s management guide highlights potential sensitivities affecting each of these four features, as well as suggesting an array of example solutions for those landowners who wish to protect the unique legacy of their ancient woodland.
The guide is available to download and is supported by further information at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/awguide
The guide has been endorsed by the following: Ancient tree Forum, Countryside Council for Wales, Country, Land & Business Association, Natural England and Northern Ireland Environment Agency.