What is ancient woodland?
Ancient woodland contains some of our most precious woodland habitats that are home to many species of rare wildlife.Find out more
One of the UK’s most important wildlife habitats is disappearing before our eyes.
Ancient woodland is one of the UK’s most precious natural assets. These sites have evolved over centuries into our richest, most biodiverse land habitats.
Today, ancient woodland covers less than 3% of the landscape. But we’re losing what little remains at an alarming rate.
The long-term effects of poor management, tree disease, climate change and intensive land-use take their toll, but the most immediate threat is inappropriate development. Every day we see plans proposed for housing estates, leisure complexes, roads, quarries and railways that will damage ancient woodland edges, tear into habitats or completely destroy sites.
The Woodland Trust is not anti-development. We recognise the need for investing in infrastructure and we support sustainable development where trees and woods can play a central role.
We know that ancient woodland loss and damage is preventable. We want to see development projects that actively avoid precious habitats and properly respect the value of woods and trees. Houses, transport links and thriving businesses need not come at the expense of irreplaceable natural assets.
Thousands of you have supported our campaigns to improve protection for ancient woods and trees. When the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published in July 2018, we were thrilled. For the first time, protection for ancient woodland and ancient and veteran trees in England was put on a par with the best of our built heritage.
This is a huge step forward for our natural heritage and something we’ve campaigned on for nearly two decades. We couldn't have made this happen without your support. But there’s still work to do.
Planning policy in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still needs to properly protect ancient habitats. And in England, planning policy needs to be enacted at a local level. Sadly, the NPPF changes will not protect precious sites from national infrastructure schemes like HS2. We need to work hard to ensure projects like these can be delivered in a sensitive and sustainable manner.
We must act to save what remains, before it’s too late.
Planning is a devolved matter so each nation’s government has a role to play. We need your help to call on them to do more. Take action now.