How to identify an ancient woodland
Ancient woodlands are areas that have had woodland cover for centuries and have been relatively undisturbed by human activity.
1 DETERMINE THE TYPE Ancient woodland has developed naturally – it is composed of native trees and shrubs, though it may have been previously managed. Plantations are woods that were felled and planted with non-native trees after the world wars.
2 RECOGNISE INDICATOR SPECIES Over hundreds of years, ancient woodlands have evolved into complex communities of trees, plants, fungi, microorganisms and insects. Species to look out for include herb-paris, black hairstreak butterfly and tree lungwort.
3 STUDY TREES CAREFULLY Ancient trees have lots of hollows, niches and deadwood to support other species. They are in the third and final stage of their life (a process of decline and decay), have a wide trunk and can have a small canopy as they shrink with age. 4 LOOK FOR HISTORICAL FEATURES There may be archaeological relics of traditional woodland management, such as charcoal hearths and kilns, platforms for processing and storage, and coppice stools with many new shoots.
5 READ OLD MAPS Woodland that has existed since 1600 in England and Wales and 1750 in Scotland is ancient woodland. These dates are used to determine the status and maps from this period can be relied upon to confirm their presence with reasonable accuracy.
6 CHECK OUT THE LANDSCAPE Banks and ditches are a sign of an old parish, deer park or were used to keep animals out. They are often marked by overgrown hedges and ancient trees can define the boundary. Ancient woodlands are also likely to be in areas that are unsuitable for agriculture.