Wood-Pasture and Parkland

Habitat Description

Wood pastures are areas of wooded land that have been historically used for the dual purpose of growing trees and grazing animals, particularly deer and livestock. They typically consist of large spreading trees, often managed as pollards, set within a matrix of grassland or heathland, although many examples are now incorporated into other woodland, or more commonly, transformed into landscaped parks.

 Veteran Tree

The intrinsic value of wood pasture and parkland is primarily associated with the trees, which are often ancient, and in some cases may represent survivals of the genetic stock from the primeval forest, or wild wood. These trees are also important for invertebrates of dead wood, which are dependent for some part of their life cycle on living, dying or dead wood and for a range of epiphyte flora and fungi.

Large areas of working wood pasture and parkland may once have existed in Northamptonshire in the grounds of large estates and historic houses such as Althorp, Fawsley and Castle Ashby. These areas of wood pasture and parkland have gradually been lost to other land uses or have lost their traditional features through neglect.

Current UK Status and Trends

It is estimated that nationally less than 10,000 to 20,000 ha of working wood pasture and parkland remain.

Estimated Current Northants Resource

Approximately 97.8 ha within local wildlife sites, possibly over 1000ha on 30 plus sites, in various states of dereliction, outside of this.

Progress Towards BAP Targets 2002-2007

Over 50ha was restored, 90ha enhanced and 25ha created in 2002 and 2003 through RDS grants.

Lead Partner

Natural England

Main Issues and Threats

  • Lack of new generation of trees to replace existing ancient examples is producing a skewed age structure and will lead to a break in continuity of suitable dead wood habitat.
  • Damage to tree roots from soil compaction and erosion caused by trampling by livestock and people, car parking and close ploughing to former parkland trees when parkland is converted to other land uses.
  • Isolation and fragmentation of remaining wood pasture and parkland sites; Many of the species dependent on old trees are unable to move between these sites due to their poor powers of dispersal and the increasing distances they need to travel.
  • Pasture improvement through reseeding, deep ploughing, fertiliser and other chemical treatments.
  • Over-grazing leading to bark browsing, soil compaction and loss of nectar plants.
  • Felling of old or dead trees for safety reasons (which are exempt from needing a felling licence).
  • Loss of habitat through conversion to arable or other land uses.

General Strategy

  • Plant young trees and ensure the survival of semi-mature trees to ensure a wide age range and constant availability of dead wood.
  • Protect the area under tree canopies from compaction and erosion by fencing or prevention of harmful activities in the vicinity.
  • Encourage lower intensity farming of the grassland below the tree canopy (reduced grazing levels and lower input of fertiliser).
  • Discourage the felling of trees for safety reasons.
  • Restore areas of wood pasture and parkland that have become partially converted to other land uses.

Associated National Priority Species

  • August thorn (moth)
  • Brown long-eared bat
  • Feathered gothic (moth)
  • Noctule
  • Oak hook-tip
  • September thorn (moth)
  • Small heath
  • Spotted Flycatcher
  • Stag beetle


Target Code

Target Type

Target Description

Target Units

Northants Baseline Resource



Unit Cost £

Total Cost £


Maintain Extent

Maintain the current extent and standard of wood-pasture and parkland and their associated trees by 2015.

Sites (average site = 5ha)


No loss






Restore 2 degraded or remnant wood-pasture or parkland sites to help reverse fragmentation and reduce the generation gap between veteran trees by 2015.





1,700/ha + 180/ha/yr

17,000 initial + 1,800/yr



Establish 1 new wood-pasture or parkland site on arable land or improved grassland.





350/ha + 180/ha/yr

1,750 initial + 900/yr


Action Code

Action Description

Lead Partner

Support Partner(s)

Related Target


Identify the extent and current condition of wood pasture and parkland in the county.

The Wildlife Trust, Forestry Commission

Royal Forestry Society



Manage wood-pasture and parkland through appropriate Environmental Stewardship (ES) prescriptions.

Natural England




Plant young trees and ensure the survival of semi-mature trees to veteran status to ensure a wide age range and constant availability of dead wood.

Forestry Commission

Royal Forestry Society



Promote a balanced, risk-based approach to tree safety works, considering the biodiversity value of standing dead wood and advocating crown reduction as opposed to whole tree removal where this can reduce the public risk to a suitable level.

Forestry Commission

The Wildlife Trust, Natural England



Identify sites that are suitable for restoration which still support a number of ancient trees and/or parkland features. Restoration to be achieved through ES or England Woodland Grants Scheme (EWGS).

Forestry Commission

Natural England, The Wildlife Trust



Identify suitable arable land or improved grassland for the establishment of a new wood-pasture or parkland site. To be achieved through ES or EWGS.

The Wildlife Trust

Royal Forestry Society



Identify potential areas for the expansion and buffering of wood pasture and parkland sites and provide advice to owners of this land.

The Wildlife Trust