Field surveys for ancient woodlands: Issues and Approaches

Peter Glaves, Christine Handley, Ian Rotherham, John Birbeck, Barry Wright

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review


Field surveys of ancient woodlands and potential ancient woodlands can be undertaken for a variety of purposes, including: to help identify an Ancient Woodland, investigation into existing designated ancient woodlands, gathering information for site management and conservation decision making, assessing potential impacts of development, and making decisions on restoration etc. There is a variety of features in a woodland which can indicate whether it is an ancient woodland and can inform on the history and current ecological/historical value of the site. Many surveys of potential ancient woodlands have tended to focus on ancient woodland indicator species (AWIs), particularly Ancient Woodland Vascular Plants (AWVPs). Surveys which just focus on such indicators miss a lot of historical, archaeological and species information which can help confirm woodland continuity (i.e. that it is an ancient woodland) and/or identify features of historical and conservation value. There is a wide range of field survey techniques which can be used in ancient woodlands and a need to bring together the archaeological and ecological surveys in a single guide, hence this document. There are three broad types of feature to look for in an ancient woodland: • Ancient woodland vascular plant indicators; • Tree shape and form; and • Surface and buried archaeology. This report sets out survey methods for these features and advises on what to look for. Many important ecological and archaeological features can only be easily found at specific times of the year and surveying these features requires specific technical expertise and experience. Where surveys are undertaken outside the optimal period of time and/or are undertaken by individuals without the appropriate training and surveying expertise, the results should be treated with caution. Ideally several types of surveys of a woodland should be undertaken at different times of year to maximise the evidence collected and the robustness of this evidence. Where this is not possible, limitations in the surveys need to be stated and recognised in any analysis. In most cases field surveys should be combined with archive surveys (of site history, previous surveys etc.); this is particularly important when identifying ancient woodlands.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSheffield, UK
PublisherWoodland Trust
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


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