Ancient Trees and Ancient Woodland

Our Ancient Woodlands are quintessential features of the United Kingdom’s much-loved landscapes – irreplaceable, living historic monuments which inspire us and provide us with a sense of place and history in an increasingly busy world.

What is an Ancient Woodland

Ancient Woodland is a rich diverse habitat that now covers just 2.4% of the UK. Ancient Woodland is any area that has been wooded continuously since at least 1600 AD. ‘Wooded continuously’ does not mean there has been a continuous tree cover across the whole site. Not all trees in the woodland have to be old. Open space, both temporary and permanent, is an important part of Ancient Woodlands. Ancient Woodlands and trees are very important because they take hundreds of years to establish and are defined as an irreplaceable habitat.

The Queen’ Green Canopy will dedicate a UK network of 70 Ancient Woodlands to highlight the importance of these woodlands and how to look after them. The Queen’s Green Canopy will also be identifying 70 Ancient Trees to be part of a special project to grow new trees.


What is an Ancient tree

The exact age at which you would call a tree Ancient depends on the species of tree and other factors including the type of site where it is growing. A birch tree could be considered as Ancient at 150 years old, for example, but an oak tree would not be thought of as Ancient until it is at least 400 years old.

Yew trees can live for thousands of years, so are not defined as Ancient until they are 800 years old. It is often difficult to estimate how old an Ancient Tree is, but one method that is used, alongside considering the ancient characteristics, is to measure the girth of the trunk.

What does an Ancient Tree look like

    • Characteristics of an Ancient Tree depend on the species, and on factors such as the site and conditions under which they have grown. However, they have three key features:
    • A low, fat and squat shape – because the crown has retrenched (reduced in size) through age
    • A wide trunk compared with others of the same species
    • Hollowing of the trunk (not always visible)