What is ancient woodland?

Ancient woodland at Coed Aber Artro.

Fingle Woods in Devon is one of the largest ancient woodlands in southern England. It is under threat from poor management and damage.

Ancient woodland contains some of our most precious woodland habitats that are home to many species of rare wildlife.

Undisturbed Ecosystems

By definition they are areas which have had woodland cover for centuries and remain relatively undisturbed. Over hundreds of years, they have evolved into complex communities of trees, plants, fungi, microorganisms and insects that rely on these undisturbed ecosystems.

They are woods that are present on maps dating back to the early 1800’s and, unless we have evidence that tells us otherwise, the presumption is that they are likely to have existed since 1600 in England and Wales and 1750 in Scotland.

Each ancient wood is unique with its own local soil, environment, wildlife and cultural history. For this reason ancient woodland is irreplaceable.

Ancient woods can be historical treasure troves full of archaeological and cultural features that give an insight into past land use. They are part of the natural heritage that we all share.

Our ancient woods are in desperate need of protection. Once vast, they now only cover just 2% of the UK. Approximately half of what remains has been felled and replanted or underplanted with non-native conifers and invasive species such as rhododendron. This can seriously damage the woodland ecosystem and smother the growth of delicate and rare flowers and shrubs.

By working with landowners and partners across the UK, we aim to restore these woods through careful management to secure and enhance the surviving remnants of the pre-plantation woodland - moving towards a refreshed semi natural state. Together we can help protect our ancient woodlands.

Find out more about ancient woodland heritage features


Report woods under threat

Duncan Lemay one of our Scottish Threat Detectors stood in front of a tree

Help us to save ancient woods and trees from development threats.

Register to become a Woods under Threat Reporter

Restore your ancient woodland

Light filtering through trees

If you have an ancient woodland site that has been planted with conifers, our specialist team can give you free help and support.

Get in touch