Wood-Pasture and Parkland

  1. Habitats explorer
  2. Woodland
  3. Wood-Pasture and Parkland

Wood-pasture and parkland -  Kedleston - Philip Precey

Wood-pasture and parkland can be the grand, sweeping estates of historic country houses, the more humble settings of local urban grasslands or even a mix of cultivated gardens surrounded by lush meadow, open heathland and woodland. As well as being of historic and cultural importance, parks can also provide habitats for all kinds of wildlife such as foxes, deer, butterflies, mosses and lichens.

Wood-pasture and parkland includes areas derived from medieval forests, wooded commons, parklands created from the 19th century onwards, unmanaged wood-pastures, and relic parkland that has been converted to farming or forestry, but where veteran trees still survive. It is the product of hundreds of years of humans managing the land, and typically consists of widely spaced, large trees (often pollards, where the removal of lower branches helps grazing animals), interspersed with grazed grassland, heathland and/or woodland wildflowers.

Where is it found?

It’s not really known how much wood-pasture and parkland exists in the UK or how much has been lost. Yet it is estimated that there are 10,000 to 20,000 hectares, much of which is in the south such as Richmond Park in London. Covering over 1,000 hectares, it’s the largest of the Royal Parks and hosts 650 deer and more than 1,000 different beetles. As a National Nature Reserve, it’s been recognised for its wildlife value.

Why is it important?

Created by people for people, parks are often places for picnics, ball games, reading a book or going for a jog. So a well-managed local park can provide both a wildlife haven and a much-needed part of a community – whether in town or country.


As pollarded trees can reach great age, wood-pasture and parkland is an extremely important habitat for mosses, lichens, fungi and invertebrates including our largest beetle, the stag beetle, which needs rotten timber in tree stumps in which to breed.


The mixture of ancient trees and other habitats mean that wood-pasture and parkland host a wide range of fungi. Beefsteak fungus is a large bracket fungus found on oak that, when cut, exudes a blood-red juice. It plays a vital role in parkland as it destroys the dead heartwood of decaying trees, making them more stable.


Wood-pasture and parkland is also prime habitat for bats, with species such as the noctule roosting in the cavities of aging trees. Such trees are very important for woodland birds such as great spotted and green woodpeckers, robin, wren and great tit.

Is it threatened?

Wood-pasture and parkland faces some significant issues such as isolation through surrounding development and pollution from traffic and fertilisers. Neglect and poor management affect the structure of parks, and the lack of younger trees being planted leads to a decrease in the amount of available dead wood. On other hand, over-managed areas, where veteran and dead trees are removed for safety and tidiness are also under stress.

The loss of veteran trees through disease, weather damage and competition with younger trees is a big problem. And the loss of overall habitat through changing land use is a continual threat.

How are The Wildlife Trusts helping?

Our native tree species provide important links in the food chain for many animals, as well as areas for shelter and nesting. The Wildlife Trusts recognise the importance of healthy habitats to support all kinds of species throughout the food chain, so offer advice to those managing our parklands on many subjects from putting up nest boxes for birds to growing glorious wildflower meadows alongside manicured lawns.

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 woodland, wood pasture and parkland.
  • Plant native trees and shrubs in your own garden and create a little space for nature – visit our Wild About Gardens website to find out more.
  • Support the work of The Wildlife Trusts protecting and restoring woodlands and their wildlife across the UK – become a member of your local Wildlife Trust.
  • Volunteer with your local Wildlife Trust and help your local woodland wildlife; depending on where you live you could be involved in everything from scrub-cutting to raising awareness about these special areas.