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Ancient woods are many times scarcer in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the UK, yet are still (January 2007) being lost at an alarming rate, according to the results of a four-year project carried out by the Woodland Trust. ‘Back on the Map’, researched and recorded ancient and long-established woodland in Northern Ireland for the first time ever.

The results of the project show that long-established woodland (that’s woodland dating back as far as 1830, but not proven ancient) now covers only 0.73 per cent of Northern Ireland. And only one-tenth of this, around 0.08 per cent of the Northern Ireland landscape, is ancient (land continuously wooded since at least 1600). By comparison, ancient woodland is thought to cover two per cent of Britain.

Back on the Map involved four years of intensive research using old maps and records, as well as the field survey of 2,617 woods. Completion of the project puts Northern Ireland in line with England, Scotland and Wales, where similar inventories were produced around 20 years ago. In fact, the relatively small amount of old woodland remaining in Northern Ireland has enabled a more thorough and rigorous method of classification. The resulting inventory sets a gold standard for similar inventories elsewhere.

Information can be added Edit

Project manager, Sian Thomas: "The new inventory need not be static. New information can be added to help us gradually build up a better and better picture of Northern Ireland’s oldest woods.All the information can be viewed on our new website, and we are keen for people to come forward and tell us about the woods they own; tell us stories about the woods they love; or alert us if they hear about woods under threat."

Recent losses Edit

Around 13 per cent of ancient and long-established woodland that survived to the 1960s has since been lost. A total of 273 ancient and long-established woods have been cleared altogether since that time. An estimated 60 per cent of this loss was to agriculture, 13 per cent to development, and 27 per cent to other causes. Of the ancient and long-established woodland areas that still remain, nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) are under 2 hectares in area, and less than one tenth are over 10 hectares in area.

Protection for woods needed Edit

The Woodland Trust is calling for:

  • Re-introduction of felling licences.
  • Ancient woodland to be granted the same level of protection in the planning system as Areas of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserves.
  • Restoration of all ancient woods that have been felled and replanted with coniferous or mixed woodland.

Patrick Cregg, of the Woodland Trust: "Ancient woods are one of the great glories of our natural heritage. Having taken centuries to evolve, they are ecological treasure houses, containing rich communities of plants and animals. Once destroyed, these woods can never be replaced. Our research shows that Northern Ireland’s oldest woods are small, fragmented, and sadly disappearing fast. The time has come to say ‘enough is enough’, and the record we have produced is a vital first step in safeguarding the future of this irreplaceable resource. Now, we want to see stronger legislation and policies to give our woods the protection they deserve."

In Northern Ireland the Woodland Trust cares for 52 woods. These woods contain a mix of newly created community woodland, mature woodland and ancient woodland.

Definition Edit

Ancient woods are areas continuously wooded since at least 1600. In Northern Ireland, long-established woods are those which have been continuously present since the first Ordnance Survey maps were produced in 1830-44, but which cannot be proven ancient.

Ancient and long-established woods in Northern Ireland to visit Edit

  • Annagarriff Wood, Peatlands Park, Dungannon
  • Ballykelly Forest, Ballykelly, Co. Londonderry
  • Ballmoyer Glen, Whitecross, Co. Armagh
  • Banagher Glen, Dungiven, Co. Londonderry
  • Belvoir Park Forest, Knockbreda, South Belfast
  • Brantry Wood, Benburb, Co. Tyrone
  • Breen Wood, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim
  • Castle Archdale, Lisnarrick, Co. Fermanagh
  • Castle Caldwell, Belleek, Co. Fermanagh
  • Cavehill, Carnmoney & Colin Glen, Belfast Hills
  • Clare Glen, Tandragee, Co. Armagh
  • Correl Glen, Derrygonnelly, Co. Fermanagh
  • Crom Estate, Newtonbutler, Co. Fermanagh
  • Drumlamph Wood, Maghera, Co. Londonderry
  • Errigal Glen, Garvagh, Co. Londonderry
  • Florence Court, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh
  • Glenariff, Waterfoot, Co. Antrim
  • Glenarm, Glenarm, Co. Antrim
  • Gosford Forest Park, Markethill, Co. Armagh
  • Killaloo Wood, Derry City, Co. Londonderry
  • Marble Arch Wood, Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh
  • Ness Country Park, Claudy, Co. Londonderry
  • Portglenone Forest, Portglenone, Co. Antrim
  • Prehen Wood, Derry City, Co. Londonderry
  • Rea’s Wood, Antrim, Co. Antrim
  • Redburn Country Park, Holywood, Co. Down
  • Roe Valley Park, Limavady, Co. Londonderry
  • Rostrevor Oakwood, Rostrevor, Co. Down
  • Straidkilly Wood, Glenarm, Co. Antrim
  • Tollymore Forest Park, Newcastle, Co. Down

Related topics Edit

External links


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