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Parkland and Wood Pasture

Posted: Friday 5th May 2017 by HerefordshireHabitatExplorer


Both wood-pasture and parkland are characterised by large mature and veteran trees, standing singly or in small clusters in an area of grassland. They are typically grazed by livestock such as deer, sheep or cows. Wood pasture is a naturally occurring habitat but in the medieval period was valuable as it provided a supply of wood as well as grazing and commoners often held rights to one or both resources.

Wood pasture was also appropriated by the crown and landowners as hunting Chase (though this did not automatically lead to the cessation of commoners rights.) Herefordshire’s parkland dates from the Norman Conquest through to the 19th century. They were deliberately created by landowners (often adapted from existing wood pasture) and were a key feature of many country estates. Landscaped parks are most commonly associated with the 18th Century and the designer ‘Capability’ Brown, when an idealised landscape of rolling grassland, magnificent trees and serene lakes surrounding one’s country house was the height of fashion.

While some examples of these habitats are extensive, in many areas only small, but valuable, pockets remain where surrounding land has been cultivated or developed.

Wildlife to spot

The wonderful old trees which stand within these support rare and specialised species including the stag beetle Lucanus cervus, a bark beetle Ernoporus tiliae, a wood boring beetle Gastrallus immarginatus, Moccas beetle Hypebaeus flavipes, orange-fruited elm lichen Caloplaca luteoalba, and the oak polypore Buglossoporous pulvinus.

This habitat also provides for a host of other wildlife including woodland birds such as great spotted and green woodpeckers, robins and wrens.

The ancient trees also provide habitat for bats, with species such as the noctule roosting in the cavities of aging trees.

Where to find them

There are wonderful examples of landscaped parkland at National Trust Croft Castle, and the National Trust Berrington Hall, created by Capability Brown as well as Moccas Park (no public access). Herefordshire Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve Crow Wood & Meadow (pictured right) includes two hectares of wood pasture with some wonderful oak trees and small-leaved lime trees. 

Love your Parkland

One reason that wood pasture and parkland are so valuable for wildlife is the standing and lying dead wood commonly found in them. You can partially replicate this at home by leaving piles of dead wood in corners of you garden which will attract a variety of invertebrates, lichen and fungi. If you have an old tree in your garden, leave it standing and consider pollarding it to extend its life.

Why not become a Herefordshire Tree Warden and help to record and care for the veteran trees of Herefordshire’s landscapes? Find out more at:; email or call: 07777 661252

Remember: the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now!

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