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Wood pasture

A wood pasture is an area of grazing land with trees. Traditionally, the trees are cut periodically for fuel and/or for additional fodder for the livestock. Under this form of management, the trees are cut and maintained as pollards, so that the new growth develops above the reach of the browsing animals.   If the trees were managed by coppicing, the animals would browse out the new growth. Seedlings can similarly be destroyed but natural regeneration of the tree population can occur in areas protected by thorny scrub.

In the Domesday Book, wood pasture was known as silva pastilis. (Coppice woodland was known as silva minuta.)

Wood pastures and old parklands are a valuable part of the UK’s natural and historic environment and are classed as a Priority Habitat. Many are of world heritage significance for their cultural and landscape interest. They make a great contribution to tourism as well as to ecosystem services. Wood pasture and old parkland is a mosaic of the following:

  • Ancient and veteran trees, as maidens or pollards, of great size and age
  • Open grassland, heathland or moorland
  • Patches of shrubs or more closely spaced trees
  • Grazing animals, and a long continuity of traditional grazed open habitat
  • Continuity of very long-lived, open crowned, individual trees.
  • Fallen but regenerating trees
  • Microhabitats e.g. large-diameter hollowing trees, rot holes, ageing bark
  • A wide range of specialised fungi, invertebrates and lichens
  • Cavities for nesting and roosting bats, birds and other species
  • Nectar sources.

Extent of wood-pastures and parkland

Britain is thought to have a large proportion of this important resource within Europe. Sadly, however, there are no reliable statistics on the extent of the overall cover, nor on its loss or fragmentation. Some internationally important wood pastures and parkland include:

  • Sherwood Forest (Nottinghamshire)
  • Borrowdale and Glenamara (Cumbria)
  • Dinefwr Park (Carmarthenshire)
  • Glen Finglas (Stirling)
  • Glenarm (County Antrim)

Further Reading and Useful Links:

The Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Hunt project,
www.AncientTreeHunt.org.uk and Natural England’s provisional
wood-pasture and parkland inventory are two powerful datasets
being used to identify important sites.

The Wood-pasture and Parkland Technical Advisory Group (TAG) was set up to:

  • Promote the conservation and management of semi-natural wood-pastures and parkland habitats and their biodiversity
  • Provide advice on habitat and specialist species to land managers and Government
  • Promote research and inventory of the habitat in the UK and Europe
  • Ensure the habitat and the conservation of the species associated with it are incorporated into future land use and development planning.
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