We are very fortunate to have several pieces of Ancient Woodland at Bank Woods. Ancient Woodland has many special features, and can teach us a lot about both natural history and human history.
Ancient woodland is defined as woodland that has existed continuously since 1600. Some may be remnants of the woodland that covered the UK thousands of years ago, after the last Ice Age. This type of habitat supports the richest land based biodiversity in the UK, and is home to many threatened species. It currently covers only about 2% of the UK.
Our woods are technically known as ‘Ancient Semi-Natural Woods’. This means they have developed naturally, rather than having been planted with non-native trees, and although they may have been ‘managed’ and the timber harvested, they have had continuous woodland cover for many centuries.
Because the soil layers have built up, relatively undisturbed, over hundreds of years, they provide a safe habitat for all kinds of fungi, insects and other invertebrates. These in turn support a whole network of plants and animals, dependent on the stable conditions and plentiful food sources that this special environment provides. We are fortunate to have the classic and much loved ‘carpet of bluebells’ in our woods, and also many rare and interesting plants characteristic of Ancient Woodland. These include bluebell, herb bennet, violet, red campion, wild strawberry, hemp nettle, stitchwort, wood sorrel, enchanters nightshade, early purple orchid and dogs mercury.
Ancient woodlands often hold clues about how the woodland and countryside around them were used in the past. In Bank Wood we have a number of small ‘disused quarries’ some of which are little more than an oval dip in the ground, perhaps a couple of metres deep and a few metres across. These would have been used to obtain stone from just under the surface for making gate posts, and our beautiful and characteristic stone walls. We also have a ‘holloway’ or sunken lane, in West Wood which we understand might have been used to transport stone from the little quarries.
Ancient woodland remaining today can never be reproduced or replaced. Once it is lost, it is gone for ever. Shockingly this rich and unique habitat has no legal protection. We are delighted that Make it Wild will be protect our Ancient Woodland, forever!
The Woodland Trust recommends the creation of new woodland and other habitats around remaining areas of ancient woodland, and also the linkage of ‘fragments’ of Ancient Woodland. That is why, over the course of 2018 and 2019 we will be planting many new trees in the areas between our Ancient Woodlands. This will have the effect of linking all the Ancient Woodland, for the benefit of wildlife.