Restoring England’s ancient heritage

UKs two biggest woodland conservation charities join forces to save ancient woodland

The Woodland Trust and National Trust have joined forces for the first time in their histories to purchase and restore a magnificent 825 acres of ancient woodland on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon.

Fingle Woods on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon. Credit WTPL:PGlen

Fingle Woods on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon. Credit WTPL:PGlen

The project will transform the northern fringes of this iconic National Park in what is one of the largest ancient woodland restoration projects ever undertaken by the organisations.

Bordered by two National Trust properties (Castle Drogo and Steps Bridge), Fingle Woods attract tens of thousands of visitors each year who have been unable to enjoy much of this stunning woodland as many parts have no public access. The partnership aims to change this by opening up the middle stretch of the 10km Teign valley, for public access, as with all Woodland Trust sites, opening up to 45km of new footpaths that will be accessible from March 2014.

A 'damaged' and native part of Fingle Wood which will be restored thanks to the National Trust & Woodland Trust partnership. Credit WTPL:PGlen

Credit WTPL:PGlen

Fingle Woods has over 525 acres of damaged ancient woodland – the equivalent of 292 football pitches – currently planted with conifers, with small fragments of extra special ancient woodland scattered within, home to kingfisher, otters, birds of prey and several native floral species including bluebells and wood anemone. The organisations aim to restore the entire planted conifer areas back to native ancient woodland by clearing the conifers and allowing the native woodland to regenerate, increasing the habitat for species like pied flycatcher, redstart and wood warbler as well as deer and fritillary butterflies.


Norman Starks, Woodland Trust Operations Director said: “Ancient woodland is the richest land habitat for species in the UK, which are areas which have been wooded since at least 1600. It is the natural world’s equivalent of a grade 1 listed building and can’t be recreated simply by planting new trees.

“Many ancient woods were planted with non-native conifers between the 1930s and 1980s to supply much needed timber for industry, resulting in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of hectares of ancient woodland.

“The best way to restore these woodland back to their former glory is to change the woodland canopy structure gradually, slowly removing the conifers to let the light back in. Restoration is the only way to protect the long-term future of the last 2% of ancient woodland that remains in the UK.”

Adrian Colston, General Manager at the National Trust said: “Conifer plantations produce dense, year round shade. This can cut out the light to surviving broadleaved trees and the delicate plants below, with damaging effects and loss of important habitats. However, many of these plantations on ancient woodland still have some surviving elements of the previous ancient woodland ecosystem and specialist flora like bluebells and dog’s mercury and important habitat like deadwood can be still be found. These delicate plants have hung on underneath just waiting for an opportunity, and enough light, to thrive again.

The river running through Fingle Wood. Credit WTPL: PGlen

The river running through Fingle Wood. Credit WTPL: PGlen

“By gradually removing the conifers it will let in the light and allow seeds in the soil from the original ancient woodland to regenerate.

“Safeguarding sites like Fingle Woods is vital in the fight to save the UKs woodland heritage. If we don’t act now, these precious ancient woodlands could be lost forever.

“Working with the Woodland Trust we are committed to restoring the missing link in this significant landscape. We estimate it will be 50-70 years before this woodland is restored to anything like its former glory, but it will create a protected haven for wildlife and people to enjoy for hundreds of years to come.”

A £5m fundraising appeal has been launched to purchase the site and help meet the cost of restoration for 20 years.


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