Ancient Deciduous Woodland
This may not be thought of as particularly significant habitat in Wiltshire, but there is estimated to be a just over 26,000 hectares of woodland covering around 7% of Wiltshire’s area. Of this approximately 52% is ancient woodland (ancient woodland sites are areas which are believed to have been continually wooded since 1600, this includes sites that have been replanted with conifers or broadleaves and are known as Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites – PAWS - which make up 55% of Wiltshire’s ancient woodland; it also includes areas which have retained a cover of mixed broadleaves known as ancient semi-natural woodland which make up 45% of the ancient woodland in the county). The rest of our woodland (48%) is regarded as secondary (having either regenerated naturally or been planted on sites which were not previously wooded). Oak and Ash/Field Maple woodlands can be found throughout the county, Alder woodlands are found in wetter areas whilst Beech and Yew woodlands are found mainly in chalk and limestone areas.
Important concentrations of woodland sites in Wiltshire include the Braydon and Savernake Forest areas which are remnants of Royal hunting forests; also Langley Wood, Bentley Wood, Great Ridge Wood and Grovely Wood to name a few. 1,350ha of Wiltshire’s woodland is designated as Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Evidence of past management can be seen in woodland features such as coppice stools, pollards and embankments; many of these woodlands have traditionally been managed as coppice, a practice that has been used more extensively over the past few years to maintain a diverse structure and ground flora in these woodlands which in turn supports an array of wildlife including bird and butterfly species; the most notable butterflies present are uncommon butterfly species such as the Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Brown Hairstreak, as well as more typical ancient woodland species such as the Purple Emperor and White Admiral. Whilst not significant nationally, the ancient woodlands often display a rich woodland flora characterised by species such as Solomon’s Seal, Herb Paris and Early Purple Orchid. Where a good hazel coppice is present, the Dormouse maybe found.