Ancient woodlands rediscovered

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13 JULY 2012NEWS RELEASE No: 15541

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A nationwide survey of Wales’s ancient woodlands has identified thousands of hectares of these “living monuments” that lay previously undiscovered.

Environment Minister John Griffiths launched the revised Ancient Woodland Inventory yesterday (Thursday, July 12), which showed that Wales now has 95,000 hectares of ancient woodland – an increase of more than 50% since the last record made eight years ago.

The huge leap in the amount of this precious and irreplaceable resource from the previous estimate of 62,000ha is due to the use of more accurate, digital maps and more precise methods which enabled new areas to be identified.

The Minister launched the inventory when he visited one of the new areas of ancient woodland that has been recognised at Cwm George and Casehill woodland, near Dinas Powys in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Mr Griffiths said ancient woodlands were one of Wales’s most valuable assets.

“They are not just museum pieces which need to be preserved, but can also be a valuable asset, providing wider benefits,” said the Minister.

“Managed sensitively and sustainably, ancient woodlands can yield timber and generate jobs which will contribute to the Welsh economy, as well as improving biodiversity, sequestering carbon and providing diverse habitats which add to our stunning landscapes.”

Ancient woodlands are areas that are believed to have been wooded for at least 400 years and may date as far back as the original Welsh “wildwood”. The increase in area means they represent over 30% of all woodlands in Wales.

Mr Griffiths said, “But, of course, these additional ancient woodlands have not just been created. They have simply been recognised for their value as a result of the new methods used.

“I was interested to hear that new technology has played a major part in the revision – so something old has been identified using something new.”

The revised inventory was commissioned by Forestry Commission Wales and the Countryside Council for Wales with support from Coed Cadw/Woodland Trust, which owns Cwm George and Casehill woodland.

Ancient woodlands are our richest and most important sites for a vast range of insects, birds, animals, flowers and trees and are home to more threatened species than any other UK habitat.

Mr Griffiths said, “Ancient woodlands are also a link with our past. They are living monuments which don’t just consist of trees, but also the associated flora and fauna which has taken centuries to establish.

“They may also have historical and archaeological significance and they can be a source of inspiration for local culture and folklore. We can imagine how, over the centuries, these woodlands will have played a role in the lives of generations.”

The new inventory will help to steer development away from ancient woodlands as the Welsh Government’s Planning Policy Wales, which gives guidance to local authorities, recognises the importance of these irreplaceable habitats.

Pictured at Cwm George and Casehill woodland during the launch of the Ancient Woodland Inventory are, left to right, Bill MacDonald (FC Wales), Environment Minister John Griffiths, his private secretary, Shona O'Shea, Trefor Owen (FC Wales), Morgan Parry (CCW), Jerry Langford (Woodland Trust). Picture: Copyright Mark Zytynski Photography.


Ancient Woodland Inventory: The first Inventory of Ancient Woodland was published in 1981, using hand drawn tracings from old documents and early Ordnance Survey one-inch maps. In 2004, the existing woodland inventory was transferred onto digital maps and an attempt was made to update the many boundary discrepancies that existed in the paper maps. It became apparent then that a full revision of the inventory was needed.

In 2009, FC Wales and CCW commissioned two pilots to check that the revised methods were making sense on the ground. This validation resulted in FC Wales and CCW, with support from the Woodland Trust, commissioning a full revision of the inventory, which was completed in late 2011.

The revised inventory includes many more woodlands than were identified previously. This is mainly due to the improved accuracy of the digital mapping, the fact that the base maps are more reliable and less ambiguous, and that digital technology allows areas of woodland between 0.5 and 2.0 hectares in size to be included for the first time.

Information about the AWI and guidance on the management of ancient woodlands is available on the FC Wales website at and then go to Wales Map Viewer.

Forestry Commission Wales: A total of 14.3 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Government. Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.

More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on

The Countryside Council for Wales: The Countryside Council for Wales is a Welsh Government Sponsored Body, working for a better Wales where everyone values and cares for our natural environment

Coed Cadw (The Woodland Trust): The Woodland Trust is the UK’s leading charity championing native woods and trees. It has 300,000 members and supporters.

The Trust has three key aims: i) to enable the creation of more native woods and places rich in trees; ii) to protect native woods, trees and their wildlife for the future and; iii) to inspire everyone to enjoy and value woods and trees.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering approximately 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres). These include over 100 sites in Wales, with a total area of 1,580 hectares (3,900 acres). It offers free public access to nearly all of its sites.

The Trust’s Welsh language name, “Coed Cadw”, is an old Welsh term, used in medieval laws to describe protected or preserved woodland. 

Press office contacts:

Forestry Commission Wales press officer Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email

Countryside Council for Wales press officer Bran Devey on 02920 772403, mobile 07747 767443, email

Coed Cadw / Woodland Trust press officer Rory Francis on 01766 832563, mobile 07760 171174, email