Understanding Exmoor's Woodlands

There is so much to discover in Exmoor's woodlands from very old woodlands teeming with wildlife, to rare trees and a long record of woodland heritage. There are also issues such as climate change and invasion from non-native species like rhododendron which are affecting the condition of Exmoor's woodlands.

Click on the links to find out more about each topic.  

Ancient Woodlands - Some of Exmoor's woodlands are very old and date back to before 1600 AD. These woodlands are termed Ancient Woodlands and have a rich assemblage of wildlife species and a long history of woodland management. Some of the ancient woodlands were historically felled and replanted with non-native tree species - these are termed Planted Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS). Today, many ancient woodlands are facing various threats ranging from rhododendron invasion to climate change which may alter their species composition in future. 

Special Trees - Exmoor also has a number of special trees which include ancient trees, orchards and rare types of whitebeam trees which grow nowhere else in the world. The tallest tree (a Douglas Fir) grows on Exmoor at Nutcombe Bottom, as does what may be the highest beech plantation in England at Birchcleave Wood, Simonsbath.

Exmoor's Woodland Heritage - Most of the woodlands have a long history of woodland heritage because they have been actively managed for hundreds of years, mostly to provide fuelwood for former industries such as for use in limekilns. Today some of the evidence of these industries can still be seen in the woodlands.

Woodland Wildlife - Most of Exmoor's woodlands are sessile oak woodlands situated in deep, incised valleys and have a high number of wildlife species associated with them ranging from rare and unusual-looking lichens, to uncommon bird species like pied flycatchers and redstarts.

In 2013, The Exmoor Society commissioned a report entitled, "Unlocking Exmoor's Woodland Potential" to assess how the woodlands on Exmoor could contribute in the future to benefit nature, the economy and people. The report concluded with a series of eighteen recommendations and can be downloaded here.