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Ancient Woodland

Over 32,000 sq km of woodland exists in the UK, but only 2.5% of that is ancient woodland.

Ancient woodlands have persisted since 1600, however, they now cover just 2.5% of the UK forest, making them rare and endangered habitats with unique and complex communities of plants, fungi, insects, and other microorganisms. 

We can define Ancient woodland by examining historical maps and current records, and by surveying the plants within the woodland. They often have plants that spread slowly, such as Wood anemone, Wood sorrel, and Ransoms (wild garlic), as well as plants whose seeds fall close to the parent, like the Wild service tree. 

Many of our ancient woodlands have been damaged or destroyed over the last hundred years, largely by conversion to conifer plantations or clearance for agriculture and it remains threatened.

Ancient Woodland Inventory Update

During the 1980s and 1990s the Ancient Woodland Inventory (AWI) was digitised to create a national dataset of ancient woodlands. However, this was before computer mapping was available and used a limited range of source material.

The AWI update will improve the accuracy and extent of the dataset, using GIS and new mapping software techniques. It will also include smaller woodlands and wood pasture, which were not included last time. This update will use a wider range of sources and information, including old maps, species records, geological reports, satellite imagery and LiDAR data.

SBIS began work on the Ancient Woodland Inventory update for Suffolk in November 2021.

The project is now entering its final phase, with SBIS staff and volunteers looking for potential new AWI sites on historic Suffolk maps (1600–1845) from Suffolk Archives at the Hold in Ipswich, and will be conducting field surveys in the Spring. 

We want to thank our wonderful volunteers for all the time and effort they have contributed to the project so far.

If you'd like to take part in the hunt for Ancient Woodlands contact: [email protected]

Ancient Woodland Indicator species link
Ancient Woodland tree identifiaction link
Habitat features link header


Woodland and parklands open to visitors

Arger Fen & Spouse's Vale Nature Reserve • Suffolk Wildlife trust

Sudbury • A fascinating mosaic of ancient woodland and naturally-regenerating woodland alongside wet meadow and fen - creating a unique, wildlife-rich landscape.

Bonny Wood Nature Reserve

Needham Market • To visit Bonny Wood is, on some levels, to experience two different worlds.

Bradfield Woods National Nature Reserv3 • Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Bury St Edmunds • One of Britain's finest ancient woodlands, Bradfield Woods is a unique wood that has been under continuous, traditional coppice management since 1252.

Bull's Woods National Nature Reserve • Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Bury St Edmunds • There’s a silence in Bull’s Wood that is only broken by the clap and whirring of pigeons and the soft sneezing call of the black bibbed marsh tit.

Captain's Wood Nature Reserve • Suffolk Wildlife trust

Woodbridge • Captain's Wood is a precious ancient woodland full of rare plants and a superb mix of natural habitats for a wide range of wildlife, including fallow deer, barn owl and bats.

Combs Wood Nature Reserve • Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Stowmarket • Situated in rolling farmland just above Combs Ford near Stowmarket, this small but botanically rich reserve has roots stretching back to the Domesday book.

Dunwich Forest • Forestry England

Dunwich • Part of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths National Landscape, Dunwich Forest consists of a mixture of coniferous and broadleaved woodland and is accessible from Dunwich village.

Groton Wood Nature Reserve • Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Hadleigh • This ancient woodland is noted for its small-leaved lime coppice, an indication that the northern part of the wood has existed since prehistoric times.

Helmingham Hall, privately owned parkland

Helmingham • Several public footpaths cross the parkland. The splendid oak avenue leading up the front drive was planted about 1680. Additionally, some of the famous Helmingham oaks in the Park are estimated to be up to 900 years old and many have immense girths.

Ickworth Park • National Trust

Ickworth • With its history traced back to Domesday, Ickworth Estate has quite a story to tell.

Ladygate Wood

Haverhill • Poplar/Ladygate Wood The names of the two halves of an isolated feature to the south of Haverhill. A public footpath runs between the two woodlands.

Newbourne Springs Nature Reserve

Ipswich • This small wooded valley with its spring-fed stream used to be a source of water for Felixstowe. Together with its small area of marsh, fen and adjacent heathland this reserve is good for flowering plants and a variety of birds including treecreeper, goldcrest and two species of woodpecker.

Rendlesham Forest • Forestry England

Rendlesham • Part of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths National Landscape.

Reydon Wood • Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Southwold • A small but fascinating ancient coppiced woodland, famed for its bluebells in the spring.

Staverton Park • Privately owned

Woodbridge • Staverton Park is one of the largest areas of ancient, pollarded oak trees in Europe. Of Saxon origin, the park is one of a handful of British medieval parks to have a continuous history. (Rendlesham & Staverton walk leaflet)

Thetford Forest • Forestry England

Thetford • The UK’s largest manmade lowland forest. A patchwork of pines, heathland and broadleaves contains a rich variety of animal and plant life.

Tunstall Forest • Forestry England

Thetford • A fascinating mosaic of ancient woodland and naturally-regenerating woodland alongside wet meadow and fen - creating a unique, wildlife-rich landscape.

West Stow Country Park • West Suffolk Council

West Stow • 125 acres of parkland along the Lark valley.

Wolves Wood • RSPB

Hadleigh • Wolves Wood is a woodland time capsule – it's one of seven ancient woodland areas which once covered East Anglia.