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Exploring woodland habitats

Woodland is unique and varied throughout the UK. Our woodland is influenced by geology, soils, climate, and history.

Woodland as a home for wildlife

Woods and individual trees are important features, often defining local landscapes as well as providing homes for some of our most loved wildlife species.

See some of our footage of our wonderful wildlife species enjoying our woods in 2015.

Want to find out more about the species that call our woods home? Learn all about the woodland animals in the UK.

Woodland diversity throughout the UK

A woodland journey through the UK begins in the lush, temperate forests of the north and west coastal areas. Here, Atlantic oak and hazel woods drip with mosses and lichens. In the Scottish highlands there are native pinewoods, with their magnificent, twisted “granny pines”.

Further south, ash woodland is a feature of the limestone landscape of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District. In the east, habitats include limewoods of the East Midlands, ancient coppice woods of East Anglia. These are often carpeted with colourful displays of flowers in the spring.

Heading west you will encounter beech woods in the Wye Valley, Cotswolds, and Chilterns. These are cool and shady in summer, with fiery carpets of fallen leaves in autumn. Further south, in Kent and Sussex, there are areas of ancient woodland and sweet chestnut coppice.

In old hunting grounds such as the New Forest, the landscape is wood pasture dotted with magnificent ancient trees. In the south-west, there is a return to the Atlantic fringes where ancient oakwoods nestle in gullies and gills.

History and importance

The history of our woodland begins after the last Ice Age, when trees recolonised the land. We do not know how much of this original forest cover remains. Today only two per cent of the UK has woodland that has existed since at least the Middle Ages. This is ancient woodland.

Ancient woodland is one of our richest wildlife habitats. They are home to rare and vulnerable species and are irreplaceable.

This doesn't mean more recent woods are without value. Wet woodland, for example, is scarce and supports a wide variety of wildlife. Younger woods and plantations can provide habitat for wildlife as they grow and develop. They can also form valuable connections between remaining pockets of ancient woodland.

Trees outside woodland can also help to connect important neighbouring habitats. Those in fields, hedgerows, gardens and even in urban areas make it easier for wildlife to move and adapt in response to change. Ancient and veteran trees are of particular importance. They harbour many species of rare and threatened wildlife.