Ancient Woodland is a highly valuable, irreplaceable habitat, defined as any continuously wooded area since 1600. Due to its complex soils and ecosystem, it is of great importance for many species, and may also hold cultural and historical value. Ancient woodlands can be categorised into two types – Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland (ASNW), and Plantation on an Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS). ASNW sites developed naturally, though are likely to have been used and managed by humans. PAWS have been felled and replanted, but are still important as they retain the rich complex soils and communities of an ancient woodland site.
Updating the Inventory
The Ancient Woodland Inventory holds data on all currently designated ancient woodland sites, and is a vital dataset which is used to inform conservation decisions and management. Currently, there are over 1300 ancient woodlands designated in the North East.
The original inventory was completed in the 1980-1990s, and was later digitised to be used as seen today. New technology, digital maps, and modern aerial imagery allow us to update the inventory with further precision and an updated methodology. Originally the inventory focussed on areas of 2 hectares or more. Within the update, we are identifying areas greater than 0.25ha in size, allowing for opportunities to identify areas of fragmented ancient woodland.
Ancient Wood Pasture and Parkland
Within the update, we are also capturing areas of ancient wood pasture and parkland. These areas are identified as a priority habitat, often holding multiple generations of trees and shrubs, and will have been heavily managed – usually by grazing.
There is currently a provisional dataset of Wood Pasture and Parkland published by Natural England, but this dataset does not include evidence for ancientness.