Four black and white Belted Galway cattle in snowy woodland pasture.

Credit: Wayne Hutchinson / Alamy Stock Photo

What is wood pasture and parkland?

Wood pasture and parkland is land that has been managed through grazing. They can be ancient, or of more recent origin, and occur in regions with distinct woodland types, such as Caledonian forest. Some started as medieval hunting forests or wooded commons, and others are the designed landscapes from large estates. They are often perfect for spotting ancient and veteran trees.

Key features

Trees in wood pasture and parkland are often pollarded. This is an ancient form of management where trees are grown within grazed pastures. The crown was regularly cut at around eight feet high, above the browsing height of the stock below. This allowed the land to be used for both grazing and to provide useful material from the trees.

Wildlife

Wood pasture and parkland sites are often made up of a mixture of habitats, from denser wooded groves to more open areas. Ancient wood pasture and parklands have accumulated the ‘old-growth’ characteristics that are missing from many enclosed woodlands. These include old trees and large pieces of decaying wood. Ancient and veteran trees are full of nooks and crannies, holes and dead and rotting wood. They offer a range of homes for both widespread and very rare species.

Explore wood pasture and parkland

You’ll find woodland pasture and parkland across the UK. They can be associated with historic estates or large public parks.

Veteran trees with broken branches in a park

Credit: Alastair Hotchkiss / WTML

Threats

Although grazing has shaped these important wooded habitats, sustained high levels of grazing over many decades will ultimately result in no new trees. Grazing needs to be carefully managed.

These habitats can be under threat of development, both permanent and temporary events. Conversion to more intensive agriculture is also an ongoing threat, and particularly the gradual loss of trees.

Other threats could include sites being isolated with limited connectivity for specialist species, as well as nitrogen air-pollution impacts on lichens associated with ancient trees. Individual trees such as veteran oak and ash are also threatened by pests and diseases.

What we’re doing about it

The UK has internationally important concentrations of ancient trees. Many of these are in wood pasture and parkland settings. It is important that they are protected and properly managed, and that new trees are regenerating naturally or planted to provide the ancients of the future.

We also make sure our wood pasture and parkland sites are properly managed, sometimes with grazing livestock to maintain the habitat.