Armchair Naturalist - Woods versus forests

Armchair Naturalist - Woods versus forests

It is always very important to remember how diverse and important our forests and woods are. They are packed full of flora, fungi and fauna as well as having huge environmental value.

Nowadays the word ‘forest’ implies an area of wooded land, but it has not always been so. The medieval meaning was ‘preserve’ - land that was legally kept for specific purposes, like royal hunting. Forests, therefore, were enormous areas of land and covered much of the UK. These green spaces were large enough to house wolves and deer for hunting. Sadly, many of these forests have shrunk in size, but places like Sherwood Forest are reminders of what our countryside once looked like.

Woodland is also considered to be an area covered with vegetation and trees but here in the UK, woods are not as big as forests.

Urban woodland can often be found in towns and cities usually within parks. These have generally been created for the benefit of humans. Children especially can learn scientific and social skills in woods and forests, but they are there for all of us to enjoy.

Ancient woodlands are the most important of them all. They are classed as areas of woodland that have been in the position since the 1600s. This is when maps became more accurate and indicated masses of wooded areas that remained untouched for hundreds of years. Left alone by humans, they have developed unique colonies of fungi, insects and plants, like wood anemone and small-leaved lime and not forgetting the strangely named lemon slug.

Unfortunately, woodland bird populations are in decline, so we need to protect our woodland habitats now more than ever.

Birds like the Blackcap, Bullfinch, and Nightingale as well as birds of prey such as the Barn Owl and Buzzard all favour these expanses of trees and leafy canopies.

Also, animals such as badgers, deer, foxes and wild boar may consider this habitat 'home' but - with proper land management and preserving these areas - we can all help to ensure that these treasure troves of our countryside are here for many more years to come.

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Written by Angela

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