Tree protected by a shield

Protect irreplaceable trees and woods

Ancient woods have been continuously wooded since before records started: they are living descendants from Britain’s prehistory. A tree may be a village’s oldest inhabitant, a founding figure in a region’s identity, a natural monument in the nation’s story. Thorn-bushes and hedgerows harbour our history. Old orchards are habitats for some of our rarest species and living museums of disappearing ways of life. A country that cares for its future cares for its past: we need laws and commitment to protect these irreplaceable natural treasures.


  1. Prevent any further loss of the UK’s precious ancient woodland
    Ancient woodland is irreplaceable, and provides vital habitat for native species, and an important link with our natural and social history. Ancient woodland should have protection at least equivalent to that provided to our man-made heritage.

  2. Identify and protect important tree heritage
    Our oldest trees are living links with history, and support a wealth of wildlife. Ancient and heritage trees should be listed natural monuments and they and their immediate environment should have the same level of legal protection and financial management support as listed buildings and monuments.

  3. Empower custodians of our tree heritage to restore important landscapes
    Ancient woodland habitats are nationally important, but many are located on privately owned land. Landowners and managers should be supported with funding and expert guidance to effectively and sustainably manage and restore ancient woodland, ancient and veteran trees, hedgerows, wood-pasture and parkland for future generations.

  4. Identify and map important trees and woods
    We can only protect and maintain what we know is there. Important trees, woods, hedges and landscapes with trees should be recorded on a national public database that is maintained and updated to allow proper monitoring and protection.

  5. Clarify responsibilities for the care of important trees and woods
    Our precious tree heritage can suffer when neglected. Conservation covenants should be introduced to ensure that management responsibilities for ancient and veteran trees and ancient woodland protection are written into deeds, as with man-made heritage.

  6. Give legal protection to historic orchards
    Historic orchards tell the story of a long and important relationship between people and trees. Historic orchards should have statutory protection as community heritage assets and important habitat.

  7. Protect and manage established hedgerows for the future
    Ancient and established hedgerows help to deliver multiple benefits to the landscape and environment. They should be protected and managed for their role as valuable natural and historical assets, not just for their function as enclosures or screens.

  8. Conserve the unique qualities of ancient woodland
    Ancient woods have irreplaceable value as heritage and habitat, from mineral and fungi rich soil that has developed over centuries of tree cover, to boundary ditches and coppiced trees that show the historic management that led to such rich habitat. Their unique features, whether natural or as a result of management, should be maintained, restored or enhanced wherever they are found.

  9. Safeguard our future tree heritage
    The trees we plant today will be the ancient woods and trees in the future, but only if we ensure they survive. We need to plant, protect and care for young trees and woods today to ensure the tree heritage of the future. Replacements for mature trees in heritage landscapes should be planted early enough to be mature before their predecessors decline.
  • Ancient Yew Group
    The Ancient Yew Group offers extensive information on yew trees and their conservation.
    Read more
  • Ancient and veteran trees, parkland and wood-pasture
    The Woodland Trust’s position on trees of special interest outlines what can be done to encourage future generations of important trees.
    Read more
  • National Planning Practice Guidance
    Defra’s planning guidance outlines key issues in implementing policy to protect biodiversity, including local requirements.
    Read more
  • Ancient trees for the future
    This guide from the Woodland Trust is primarily for landowners and professionals who want to establish trees that can develop full, open crowns and live long enough to become ancient.
    Read more
  • Maximising the benefits of woods and trees
    This Woodland Trust publication is designed to help local authorities harness the potential of trees and woods.
    Read more