Wood pastures and parkland
Wood pastures and parkland are part of what makes the quintessential English landscape so unique and beautiful that it is copied around the world. There is strong evidence that wood pastures are the closest habitat to the original wildwood and are the overarching treed habitat.
Wood pasture and parkland has a very diverse structure largely maintained by grazing by large herbivores (cattle, horses, pigs and deer) resulting in a dynamic mosaic of flower-rich pastures, patches of scrub, open-grown trees including ancient trees, lots of decaying wood and groves of closed canopy trees. Wood pasture and parkland provides all the UK habitats and therefore provides the maximum number of niches for the associated wildlife that we love.
Wood pastures and parkland can be seen most clearly in England as Royal Forests (of mediaeval origin), mediaeval deer parks, grazed common land or wood-fuel/ nut/seed/ fruit orchards with pollards. Examples include the New Forest (SSSI), Moccas Park NNR (SSSI), Sherwood Forest (SSSI), Windsor Forest and Great Park (SSSI), Richmond Park (SSSI), Blenheim Park (SSSI), Chatsworth (SSSI), Epping Forest (SSSI) and Burnham Beeches (SSSI). Their value is acknowledged by their designation as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and often endorsed by their popularity for local and international people.
Remnants of wood pasture and parkland with many important ancient trees exist in the Forest of Selwood at Marston Park, Mells Park, Orchardleigh Park, Longleat, Stourhead and Redlynch Park.
Evidence of the international value for wildlife of wood pasture and parkland has long been demonstrated:
- Pasture-Woodlands in Lowland Britain. Harding and Rose (1986) ITE.
- Natural England Access to Evidence Information Note EIN011 Summary of evidence: Woodpasture and parkland;
- Managing for species: Integrating the needs of England’s priority species into habitat management (NERR024);
- European Wood-pastures in Transition – A Social-ecological Approach. T Hartel and T. Plieninger (2014);
For further information see the Wood Pasture and Parkland Network website