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Ancient Woodland Priority Areas

MIXED OAK AND BEECH WOODLAND.  AUTUMN. WEST MIDLANDS FDAncient woodlands and trees represent a living cultural heritage, a natural equivalent to our great churches and castles. They are also our richest wildlife habitat and are highly valued by people as places of tranquility and inspiration.

The South West contains over 20% of England's ancient woodland resource and its protection and management is a high priority.

In order to use resources to their greatest effect, a targeting exercise has been carried out to identify core areas of ancient woodland networks in the region where landscape connectivity and permeability offer the best opportunity to link and extend ancient woodlands, either through new native woodland planting or through the management or creation of other semi-natural habitats. By working on a landscape scale we can increase the resilience of these habitats to climate change.

These core areas also indicate where increasing management will have the greatest impact. The concept of core areas is also included in the SW Nature Map.

The first stage was a mapping exercise to identify robust habitat networks centred around clusters of ancient and native woodlands.  The principles behind this approach are set out in FC Information Note 73 [PDF 500kb]. These networks were then considered in the light of the potential for partnership working, and three Ancient Woodland Priority Areas (AWPAs) were selected in 2006 (Exmoor, Dartmoor, Cotswolds). In 2009 we established a fifth priority area in Cranborne Chase.


We are seeking to protect and enhance the ancient and native woodlands of the South West and increase the area of native woodland in line with the Government policy outlined in “Keepers of Time”.

Support available

The whole suite of grants under the English Woodland Grant Scheme are available to support work within the four AWPAs but specifically we can contribute up to 80% of agreed costs through Woodland Biodiversity Woodland Improvement Grants.  This Woodland Improvement Grant will still be available over the rest of the region at a rate of 50% of agreed costs.