The High Weald is nationally important in terms of ancient woodland containing 7% (24,500ha) of all ancient woodland in England.
Ancient woodland is especially important as it is land that has been continuously wooded for many centuries.
Ancient semi-natural woodland (ASNW) comprising native tree species is the most ecologically diverse and rich habitat type in the UK. Much of the ASNW in the High Weald has been historically managed as coppice, a traditional form of management that is important for wildlife, and this continues to this day on a much reduced scale.
For more information see the Woodland Trust's pdf Ancient Woodland Guide (5.57 MB)
Plantation on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS)
Of this ancient woodland resource some 36% (8,734ha) has been planted with non-native species in the past and is termed as Plantation on ancient woodland sites (PAWS). Many of these sites are managed as productive commercial forestry crops but many others stand neglected and are being targeted under the High Weald AONB Ancient Woodland Restoration Project.
Since establishment a number of these plantations have not received regular forest management for a variety of reasons, such as poor markets, difficult access and fragmented ownership. These sites would often benefit from management intervention in order to improve the woodland in terms of timber, wildlife, amenity, game management etc. It is these unmanaged plantations that we are targeting through this project.
PAWS usually contain important ancient woodland features and remnants and with sensitive management these can be maintained and enhanced or the site can even be restored over a suitable timescale to more semi-natural or mixed woodland. One method of woodland management that is suitable to managing a gradual restoration of PAWS or managing commercial conifer crops alongside the ancient woodland features is Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF).