So, you own a woodland?

An introductory guide to woodland management.

Having your own wood amounts to much more than just owning a group of trees – as you are sure to have discovered already. Many people think that woods are better left untouched, and that a wood left to nature becomes a haven for wildlife. But there are lots of simple things that you can do to make it a better place to visit, to attract more wildlife and to contribute to its upkeep.

So why is it that woods need our intervention to make them better for wildlife?

Before man arrived on the scene, forests covered much of the land. There would have been a mosaic of habitats within the forest, as saplings and young trees grew into the gaps created by storms or disease. Wildlife could move through the forest to suitable new habitats as old ones disappeared. The small, fragmented woods that survive today are not big enough to develop this range of habitats naturally. Sensitive management maintains this diversity of habitats, and this allows our native woodland plants and animals to survive and thrive.

Traditional management practices have not only provided supplies of timber and coppice products but have maintained habitat diversity in our woods over many centuries. Now such activities are in decline, but some of our best-loved woodland wildlife depends for its survival on woodland management – woodland wild flowers and butterflies flourish in these traditionally managed woods. By leaving dead wood and old trees, birds like woodpeckers, lots of interesting beetles and a range of fascinating fungi can be encouraged too.

But remember: No two woods are alike. This guide does not attempt to cover all the options; they are primarily intended to help you look at your wood in a new light, and consider ways of improving it. The old adage ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ is never more true than in woodland work, especially where equipment such as chainsaws are involved. Felling, for example, is an operation that should only be undertaken by someone trained in chainsaw use, preferably an experienced local contractor. Before beginning any major work, you are advised to contact a professional woodland manager who can also advise you about felling licence requirements and other legal responsibilities you have as an owner towards endangered and protected species such as bats and badgers.

The content of this section was originally published in 2015 in the Forestry Commission guide, So, you own a woodland? This guide is now available, by kind permission of FC England, through the links below.