Gobions wood - Amy Lewis
Walking through a springtime woodland can be a joy. Sunlight filters through the canopy to the forest floor, lighting up carpets of bluebells, primroses and ramsons, which fill the air with the scent of garlic. Oaks stand tall, spreading their branches over a dense layer of hazel, while small-leaved lime (a reminder of the former wildwood), hornbeam and ash may all find a foothold. This typical picture of the wooded British countryside represents a lowland mixed deciduous woodland.
Lowland mixed deciduous woodland grows on all kinds of soils, and includes most semi-natural woodland in southern and eastern England, and in parts of lowland Wales and Scotland. Many are ancient woods which have been continuously wooded since the 17th century.
Where is it found?
There are about 240,000 hectares of lowland mixed deciduous woodland in the UK. Although this is a reasonable extent compared to some priority habitats, lowland mixed deciduous woodland now only covers 1-2% of its original range and has declined by around 40% since 1935.
Why is it important?
For many hundreds of years, lowland mixed deciduous woodland has been coppiced for materials for buildings and crafts. As a result, wildlife has benefited from the opening up of the woodland floor to sunlight. Woodland flowers such as bluebell, early purple orchid and wood anemone all flourish in this habitat. In fact, the UK’s bluebells make up almost 50% of the world’s total population.
Rarer species like herb-Paris – its presence an indication of an ancient woodland site – and greater butterfly orchid can also be spotted on the woodland floor. In turn, this profusion of wildflowers attracts all kinds of nectar-loving insects like bees, wasps, hoverflies and butterflies including the rare pearl-bordered fritillary and white admiral.
Lowland mixed deciduous woodland is important for wide range of birds including nightingales, spotted flycatchers, woodpeckers, treecreepers and nuthatches. It is also the main stronghold of the protected hazel dormouse. Once widespread, this loveable mammal is now extinct from around half of its former haunts.
As well as being important for local landscape character, lowland mixed deciduous woodlands are also often rich in historic features such as old banks and ditches, the remains of buildings that were once part of local woodland industries, and ancient pollards and coppice stools.
Is it threatened?
In general, our woodlands are threatened by clearance for development and agriculture, and lowland mixed deciduous woodland has been declining in range as a result. It has also been degraded by extensive deer browsing of young coppice, the introduction of non-native species, poor management or neglect, and habitat fragmentation.
How are The Wildlife Trusts helping?
Across the UK The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland nature reserves sympathetically for all kinds of species. A mix of coppicing, scrub-cutting, ride maintenance and non-intervention all help woodland wildlife to thrive.
We are also working closely with other landowners to promote wildlife-friendly and traditional practices in these areas. We have a vision of A Living Landscape: a network of habitats and wildlife corridors across town and country, which are good for both wildlife and people.
What can I do to help?
- Take part in conservation measures on your land – ask your local Wildlife Trust for advice on the management of lowland mixed deciduous woodland.
- Support the work of The Wildlife Trusts creating, protecting and restoring woodlands across the UK – become a member of your local Wildlife Trust.
- Volunteer with The Wildlife Trusts and help your local woodland wildlife; depending on where you live you could be involved in everything from traditional forest crafts to raising awareness about woodland animals.