We are at the forefront of championing restoration throughout the UK. As well as restoring our own sites, we are working with landowners and managers to restore privately-owned ancient woodland. Together, we’ve committed more than 34,000 hectares of damaged woodlands back into a process of recovery.

Almost 40% of the UK’s ancient woodland has been replanted with dense non-native trees, causing deep shade across the woodland floor. Non-native plants like rhododendron, Himalayan balsam and snowberry are also encroaching into our woodlands competing with native plants.

What is ancient woodland restoration?

Restoration is the careful process of removing these threats. This enables natural regeneration of native trees and plants, and helps wildlife to thrive. Managed well, restoration can bring ancient woodland back from the brink and provide other benefits, such as income from timber.

How we restore ancient woodland

Why restore ancient woodland?

Ancient woods have been around for centuries – long enough to develop into complex ecosystems. They are some of our most precious habitats, with incredible communities of plants, fungi, insects and other fauna.

They are home to lots of scarce species, including:

  • the striking purple emperor butterfly which lives in the canopy
  • lungwort lichens that grow on tree trunks in ancient woods with low air pollution
  • scarce and elusive woodland molluscs like the lemon slug which spend most of their lifecycle in ancient woodland soils
  • many plant species largely restricted to ancient woodland habitats, such as the wood anemone

These habitats are also historical treasure troves. Full of archaeological and cultural features, they give us insight into the past.

Ancient woodland is priceless. If we don’t restore and protect what we have left, we’re at risk of losing it forever.

Explore the evidence for restoring ancient woodland

Challenges for ancient woodland

Without restoration, many of these woods will degrade further or disappear altogether.

Muntjac deer peeking its head out of long grass

Credit: Amy Lewis / WTML

Pests and diseases

New tree diseases and insect pests are arriving in the UK each year, affecting tree health.

In many areas, high and increasing deer numbers prevent new saplings from establishing and can impact woodland ground flora. This hinders progress with restoration. Grey squirrels also have implications for restoration management.

Machinery used for felling has created wet, muddy tracks

Credit: Laura Shewring / WTML

Inappropriate management

Extensive clearfelling, drainage and soil damage can further threaten the survival of the fragile remnants of these ancient woodland ecosystems.