Protecting Ancient Woodlands

Why do we need to protect ancient woodlands

Ancient Woodlands 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.

Challenges to Ancient Woodland

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 cause enormous damage to our Ancient Woodlands.

Learn more about tree diseases and pests.

Inappropriate management

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


Development can affect Ancient Woodland, ancient and veteran trees, and the wildlife they support on the site or nearby.

Ancient Woodland and The Queen’s Green Canopy

The Queen’s Green Canopy will dedicate a UK network of 70 Ancient Woodlands to highlight the importance of these woodlands and how to look after them. All these woodlands must be actively managed, which means they are being looked after in the right way.

The Queen’s Green Canopy will also be identifying 70 Ancient Trees to be part of a special project to grow new trees by propagation. This will be the start of a larger project to propagate material from many of the UK’s most important Ancient Trees, to ensure that the genetic resource is conserved even when the trees themselves have died.