Ancient Woodland Northumberland
"Ancient woodland has been around for so long it has developed special communities of plants and animals not found elsewhere. It’s an important habitat and in sore need of protection." Woodland Trust
Whittle Dene is classed as ancient woodland, which the local Biodiversity Action Plan describes as"woodland that has occupied the site, normally with minimal human change to the tree species composition, since at least 1600AD. It is the closest we have to natural woodland in the UK and is an irreplaceable part of our heritage."
This type of woodland now covers just 1% of the total land area of Northumberland , which is why groups like ours, and the Woodland Trust, are seeking to look after what little is left.
It takes a long time for the diverse community of plants, trees, mosses, lichen, fungi and insects to establish itself, so ancient woodland often includes species and habitats found nowhere else. We are seeking to record the species of wild flowers, birds, mammals & fungi in this particular area of Whittle Dene. You can find some of our records so far on the Photos page.
The directors of Whittle Dene CIC are all passionate about protecting this beautiful and special place, and ensuring that people can continue to enjoy it into the future.
 Northumberland Biodiversity Action Plan- Native Woodland Habitat Action Plan (pg58) , Northumberland Biodiversity Partnership- 2008
Only 10% of Northumberland's woodlands are ancient
This extract from the Woodland Trust's Management Plan describes the significance of the whole of Whittle Dene:
"Although Northumberland has relatively large area of woodland cover 80,000ha+, compared to some counties, 71% is coniferous plantations and only has 10% semi-natural ancient woodland in various conditions. This makes Whittle Dene's 18.9ha contribution and protection vital. Equally this ancient semi-natural woodland (ASNW) directly abuts other ASNW and planted ancient woodland (PAWS) so has a larger core area than that solely in WT ownership. As it is restored it will make a vital contribution to the biodiversity of the whole area and restoring the remaining areas (outside WT ownership) would also be beneficial. As the site has been woodland with coppice for hundreds of years the traditional coppice has a historical value and is unusual for Northumberland which has little hazel coppice with the associated mix of woodland plants and animals. The more the site is managed to resemble a 'true' semi-natural ancient woodland the richer and more valuable it will become. The woodland is a feature within the landscape as ancient woodlands cover the full length of the Dene"
People and Woodland
The Woodland Trust plan above mentions hazel coppice. Coppicing is a traditional woodland management practice that allows for the sustainable harvesting of poles from trees like hazel and willow and in turn prologs the life and vigour of the trees. We understand that there is a long history of of people working with the woods in this way at Whittle Dene. Part of the CIC's aim is to reestablish a connection between people and place. We intend to do this by offering educational and voluntary opportunities for people in areas such as traditional woodland crafts and sustainable woodland management.
Read more about how coppicing prolongs the life of hazel trees here.
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