NFP Logo
The Art of Natural Forest Practice
Welsh Logo



What does a healthy woodland look like?
A healthy woodland is vibrant, diverse, complex, tangled and looks very untidy.  Nature likes it this way.  No truly natural wildwood survives in Britain (the term Ancient Woodland simply means the woodland has been there at least 400 years- quite a short time).  Some woodlands are much richer and more diverse than others.  Millennia of intervention by us humans has so modified the woodland that we have become used to seeing this as the norm.
There are two rule of thumb guides we can readily apply to gauge the health:-
* The first, glancing round, do you see plenty of decaying wood- on the ground, standing trunks, branches, hollows and cavities in old trees, etc.  If not, something’s wrong.
* The second, close your eyes and listen to the bird song.  A healthy wood in the spring has a cacophony of song (almost silent in autumn).  Do you hear a duet or a full choir?  In comparing one woodland with another, allow for the song diminishing in the middle of the day, dark grey, chilly weather, etc.

If the woodland is deficient in either of these it is likely to lack fungi, nesting birds, flowering plants, insects, ferns, etc and be too dry or lacking small gaps in the canopy (see question on making glades).
Woodland consists of much more than trees, trees are the scaffold on which the forest hangs.  There should be a wide range of habitats, damp and dry, dark and light, young and old.  Insects, for example, benefit from decaying wood which is recycling nutrients, which also provides a home and a food source for birds.  Trees grown for timber exist in harmony with our need for tranquillity and nature flourishes.  This is rich, diverse, complex woodland.

Drifts of mixed flora, nature does not like mono cultures.  Above – bluebell, stitchwort and ferns.  Below – herb paris and wood anemone.