This report presents an overview of the various types of evidence which can be used to determine whether a woodland site is likely to be designated as ‘ancient’ and discusses how these can be used as part of the decision making process. It has been commissioned by the Woodland Trust as part of their work promoting the value of ancient woodlands and getting the importance of such sites recognised through the planning process. An ancient woodland is defined as a woodland which has been continuously wooded from before 1600 AD. The evidence used to determine whether a site is ancient woodland is therefore: • evidence which indicates the continuity of woodland cover at a site from before 1600. • evidence which indicates that woodland was established post-1600 on a site. • evidence of a gap in woodland cover and the presence of other land uses, e.g. farmland, at that site since 1600. The robustness of the evidence sources varies, modern sources are often more robust and easier to verify but only demonstrate woodland cover in recent times. Care needs to be taken with all sources in their interpretation and use. Guidance has been provided regarding some of the potential limitations of the various types of evidence and recommendations have been made. General recommendations when seeking to identify/confirm an ancient woodland: • Ideally multiple sources of evidence should be obtained. • The reliability of the evidence used should be considered in the analysis. • A wide range of evidence sources should be consulted. • It needs to be recognised that absence of reference to a woodland on a map or in a document is not necessarily evidence of the absence of a woodland at that site. • In looking for evidence to determine whether a site is an ancient woodland it is as important to look for evidence that there was another land use at this site (i.e. evidence of a gap in woodland cover as shown by farmland on a map) as it is to look for evidence that there has been a continuity of woodland cover. • Field based evidence should normally be used to support map and archive evidence. However, ancient woodland plants can aid in ascribing antiquity where archive evidence alone is insufficient. • The evidence used to support the designation of a woodland as ancient or not needs to be clearly stated. As indicated previously, evaluation of the historical and other evidence for a site being an ancient woodland or not is a matter of judgement. Much of the evidence used is historic and not scientific, yet a rigorous scientific approach needs to be taken in determining the status of a possible ancient woodland site. It is recommended that in the near future further investigations into developing a more rigorous method for identifying and verifying the status of a site as an ancient woodland should be investigated. It is also recommended that the statutory agencies consider the development of detailed advice to consultants, planners and other workers involved in decisions relation to identify or potential ancient woodlands. It is hoped that this document may aid in this development.
|Published - Oct 2009