Restoring Fingle Woods

Bringing a woodland of this size back to life hasn’t been attempted before and is an adventure for all involved. Find out what we're doing, and why.

Changes in the Teign Valley

People have lived and worked in the Teign Valley for generations. Iron Age tribes cut timber here and hunted in the woods at the time they built Wooston Fort 3,000 years ago. Changes to the ancient woodland took place slowly but over time have put great pressure on this precious habitat.

From the 16th century the charcoal industry provided a versatile fuel, culminating in boom time during the World Wars when charcoal was used to make explosives. As demand for charcoal declined, more timber from industrial forestry was required. Now, thankfully, the pendulum is swinging in favour of ancient woodland conservation before we lose this irreplaceable habitat for ever.

How long will restoration take?

The steepsided Teign Valley contains unique soil and wildlife communities that have taken centuries to develop and now, beneath the conifers, are at risk of becoming degraded. The success of the Fingle Woods restoration will depend on how well this ancient soil structure has been preserved.

Before restoration work could begin we needed to know more about Fingle and took time to study each forest nook and rocky ridge. We had to make a plan to protect its qualities and make gradual changes, starting with the most run-down areas first. Invasive plants needed removing, rare species needed protecting and the ancient woodland remnants had to be found.

Over time the dense conifers will be carefully thinned so the sun can reinvigorate the diverse woodland life. It’s taken hundreds of years to get where we are now and it could take another hundred to get to where we want to be. 

Ancient woodland restoration at Fingle: what we're doing

Benefits of ancient woodland restoration at Fingle

What will Fingle look like?

Restoration of woodland on this scale requires great vision. Bringing a woodland of this size back to life hasn’t been attempted before by our two organisations and is an adventure for all involved. Some areas are already havens for wildlife while others have a very long way to go. But each year that passes will bring positive results with more birds, butterflies, wildflowers and diversity.

 There will be continual regeneration among the patchwork of old growth, and cracked and gnarled trees will play their part as well as the fresh bright shoots. It will all be driven by increased sunlight as the conifers are gradually thinned. It’s going to be a real treat for wildlife and for people!

Why is ancient woodland so important?

Ancient woodland isn’t just defined by the age of the trees, its importance lies in the whole ecosystem starting from deep within the soil. Microscopic organisms create the richness below ground that is revealed above ground through the diversity of wildflowers, fungi and broadleaved trees. Local conditions create specialised ecosystems that may only be found in a confined area.

Check out further progress on the joint Woodland Trust/National Trust blog (external link).

 Please help us to restore Fingle Woods by donating to the appeal now.

More about Fingle Woods

Help restore Fingle Wood

A view of the river through the trees at Fingle wood

With your support we will restore this damaged ancient woodland to its former glory.

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