The plan to revive Britain’s ancient woodlands (and the seven species that live there)

Apr 22, 2024 | News

We underestimate the elderly to our peril. The ancient woodlands of Britain may look unkempt and gnarly, but they are the richest terrestrial habitat in Britain, with more threatened species than anywhere else. They are also crucial in tackling climate change – storing 77m tonnes carbon.

It is more important than ever to get out there and explore, protect and love these beautiful habitats. Since the Industrial Revolution we’ve lost over half of our ancient forests. The ones that remain look weathered, worn, and need some support. The Woodland Trust has set out to restore more than 34,000 acres of damaged woodlands to their former glory. The UK’s largest woodland conservation charity, working with donors and the public, is planting millions of new trees and reviving damaged but magical environments.

Fingle Woods, in Dartmoor’s Teign Valley (south-west England), has already begun planning. The Woodland Trust and National Trust bought the site in 2014 and have been restoring its ancient, broadleaf, and upland woodland habitats ever since.

Initially, the woods were dark and overcrowded. In the early 20th century many of the native broadleaves were felled and replanted to meet the demand for timber. These giants cast a shadow over precious oaks and beeches, causing the surrounding fauna and fora to decline.

The Woodland Trust team has brought back light and life by removing interlopers. Wildflowers such as daffodils and primroses cover the forest floor, while old, sleepy oaks are sprouting new shoots. You might hear a lesser-spotted woodpecker rapping or see the marigold flash from an orange-tip butterflies as you stand among these living monuments. Fingle Woods is home to seven species of plants and animals that are flourishing thanks to the Woodland Trust.

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