Mixed deciduous woodland is the natural woodland cover for most of Barnsley, mainly mixed Oak-woods with some stands of Ash and Alder.
As well as spring flowers, these woods are important for fungi, lichens, mosses and ferns; for moths and butterflies and other invertebrates; for bats and foraging mammals; and for birds.
Local Priority Habitat details
Mixed deciduous woodland is a local priority habitat because of its national status, the plants, animals and birds it supports, and the opportunity for its conservation in Barnsley.
It is a national priority habitat: Lowland mixed deciduous wood-land. UK BAP priority habitats
Phase 1 habitat surveys class this priority habitat as broadleaf woodland.
There are four main National Vegetation Classification (NVC) categories for this priority habitat in Barnsley:
W10 Oak-bracken-bramble on shale soils.
W16 Oak-birch-wavy hair grass on sandstone soils, and
W17 Oak-birch-bilberry in more open areas
W7 Alder-ash-flush on poorly-drained soils.
The best examples of this local priority habitat are
The richest display of Bluebell and other spring flowers is found in mixed Oak-woods on the neutral shale soils of valleys and slopes, with more shade-tolerant species like Bracken and Bramble later.
The colourful spring displays include an abundance of Bluebell, Wood Sorrel, Greater Stitchwort and Honeysuckle as well as more occasional species like Yellow Archangel.
In damper areas Wood Anemone, Ransom, Lesser Celandine and Dog’s Mercury are more abundant; species like Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage are found.
Pedunculate Oak is the most common tree together with Silver Birch, and Sycamore, and sometimes Ash and Wych Elm. Hazel is the most abundant understorey shrub, together with Hawthorn, Holly and Elder.
Ash and Alder occur on less well-drained soils near springs, flushes or streams or other damper sites.
Oak-woods on the thinner, more acidic, poorer sandstone soils on steeper slopes or hill tops are less rich in spring flowers. Here there is Wavy Hair Grass on shallower soils and Bracken on deeper soils, with Bilberry and Heather in more open areas.
Sessile Oak and Downy Birch become more common in the wetter and colder conditions towards the west with Holly and Rowan the most abundant understorey shrub there.
Beech and Sweet Chestnut have been widely planted in all these woodlands along with some non-native conifers.
Key objectives for biodiversity in woodlands
Although sites over 0.5ha are a priority, smaller sites that may form stepping stones between sites should also be considered important.
Landowners, including Barnsley Council, Forestry Commission, private estates, trusts, and individuals: follow best practice in managing their woodlands for wildlife; take up opportunities to restore or create woodlands.
Natural England: administers countryside stewardship grant schemes for woodland creation or improvement, tree health support, or for preparing a woodland management plan.
Forestry Commission:licenses felling and approves woodland management plans; provides guidelines and sets conditions to protect biodiversity. www.forestry.gov.uk/ewgs.
South Yorkshire Forest Partnership and Woodland Trust: offer advice & support; promote ancient woodlands through South Yorkshire project.
Barnsley Council has commissioned a strategy for Barnsley’s woodland. It includes priority areas for expansion woodland, balancing woodland against other land uses, protecting and enhancing landscape and biodiversity.
The Environment Agency has identified areas in which new woodland creation would reduce flood risk.
Barnsley Council as planning authority: sets conditions in relevant planning applications to ensure that the biodiversity value of woodlands are maintained and enhanced; issues Tree Preservation Orders where appropriate.
Voluntary groups and volunteers: help with woodland management as well as with planting; help with information about condition of woodlands and provide records of wildlife in them.
Features that support wildlife species
Woods and their trees, undergrowth and leaf litter, are important for wildlife. Different species use specific woodland features for food or foraging, nesting and roosting, shelter and a refuge from predators.
A full range of woodland wildlife species requires a complex woody structure of trees and shrubs (for example, low hanging boughs, twigs and leaves, open soil, leaf litter, standing and fallen dead wood);
Areas where woodland grades into open scrub, grassland, wetlands and heath, sheltered glades and rides, are important as are older trees with a good, spreading structure and abundant dead wood.
Some species respond positively to scrub regeneration or short open vegetation. Some need higher humidity.
Dead, decayed or decaying wood is an essential component of woodland ecosystems; this includes standing trees, dead branches, stems and snags on living trees and fallen branches and stumps. Humid leaf litter and decaying wood support a great range of invertebrate species.
Butterflies, moths and other insects often require specific species of tree, shrub and ground cover as larval food plants. The locally rare Purple Hairstreak Butterfly is found on Oak, White Letter Hairstreak found on Elm and other butterflies depend on grasses and other plants found in wide rides and glades.
Woodland shelters a range of birds feeding on the flies and other invertebrates they find there as well as seeds and nuts during winter.
Species supported by woodland
Bat species. Most bats use woodland for roosting or foraging. Roosts of Common and Soprano Pipistrelle, Natterer’s and Brown Long-eared Bats are almost always near a woodland.
Other mammals in woodland habitats include deer, Fox, Badger, Hedgehog, as well as mice, voles and shrews.
Birds in woodland include the red listed Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, Willow Tit, Song Thrush, Bullfinch, Lesser Redpoll and Hawfinch; the amber listed Green Woodpecker, Pied Flycatcher, and Redstart; as well as Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Tree Creeper, Jay, Tawny Owl and Buzzard, all breeding in Barnsley.
Invertebrates. Woodland supports a wide range of insects and other invertebrates, including centipedes, woodlice and millipedes, ants, flies, bees, moths and butterflies.
Many butterflies are regularly found in woodland and specific woodland butterflies include Speckled Wood, Comma, Ringlet, Purple Hairstreak, White-lettered Hairstreak.
The butterfly White-letter Hairstreak; macromoth, Yellow-legged Clearwing; and longhorn beetle, Stenocorus meridianus, have been found in Hugset wood for example. An indicative list of invertebrates found in different Barnsley woodland sites is to follow.
Plants. A list of plants characteristic of ancient woodlands in South Yorkshire has been produced by Professor Melvyn Jones, and used to help identify local wildlife sites in Barnsley.
Carpets of spring flowers
in many of these ancient broad-leaved woodlands are a breath-taking sight.
Most plants in broadleaf woodland burst into life early and flower during the spring, giving a brief burst of intense colour before the trees come into leaf and the ground is shaded.
Causes of loss or decline of woodland habitat
Good management practice. Woodlands require both long-term management geared towards the trees themselves as they grow and mature; as well as shorter term activity to create and promote well-structured glades and rides and manage the under-storey.
Positive conservation management over time includes:
Natural regeneration following felling has an important role as well as replanting with native trees. It is also important for management to be in phases, with one area being managed before another.
Some areas have long-standing conifers or non-native trees that may be valuable habitat for species not common locally. The ecological value of such areas should be investigated before replacement..
The value of woodlands in the landscape and for their cultural associations should be taken into account in retention and management of woodland. Historic features in woodland, such as boundary ditches and mounds, should be preserved.
Most of the LWS woods listed are ancient woodland. The following ancient woodlands are not LWSs at this time:
Bagger wood, Nabs wood, Hall Royd Wood near Silkstone Common, Cowcroft Wood, north west of Kexborough, Sheephouse Wood, north west of Stockbridge and woodland to the west of Great Houghton.
Woods that may warrant LWS status due to their assemblages of woodland birds are:
Bagger wood; Wigfield wood; woodland north east of Wombwell; Royd, Falt, Broad, Bracken and Ron Cliff woods west of Cawthorne; woods around Langsett.
26 Cliffe Wood, W10, W16;
29 Wombwell Wood, W10, W16;
30 Short wood and Hay Green: W10;
31 Sunny Bank, Horse Carr and Storrs Wood, W10, W16
34 West Haigh Wood, W16;
41 Wharncliffe Chase / Wood, W16;
42 West Wood, W10, W16;
45 Skiers Spring Wood, W10;
47 Hoyland Bank Wood, W10, W16.
10 Hollin and Spring Woods, W10, W16;
11 Gunthwaite Dam & Clough Wood, W10;
12 Margery Wood, W10;
13 North Wood, W10, W16;
14 Royd, Vicar, Lindley & Coates Great Woods, W10;
16 Silkstone Fall Wood, W10;
20 Hugset Wood, W10;
21 Lowe Wood, W10;
23 Rockley Woods, W10;
The following Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) include the Mixed Deciduous Woodland priority habitat. The NVC category is shown for each LWS as W10 - Oak-bracken-bramble woodland with its rich display of spring flowers and/or W16 - Oak-birch-wavy hair grass woodland. Many of these sites also include areas of alder ash flush woodland (W7), where there are streams or flushes.
Woodland and Local Wildlife Sites
Although Barnsley’s woodland cover at almost 10% is about the same as the national average this is far less than in many European countries. Barnsley’s semi-natural deciduous woodland is even less at 7%, 2260 ha.
There has also been a decline in the value of woodland for wildlife.
National policies have a presumption against clearance of or development on semi-natural woodland, especially ancient woodland.
Natural England has issued Standing Advice on protecting ancient woodland from development, on the basis stated in the NPPF that ancient woodland is irreplaceable.
Thinning or clearance of woodland requires a felling licence from the Forestry Commission and in the case of clearance this will stipulate the type and level of restocking.
Management of semi-natural woodland has to be in accordance with Forestry Commission guidelines to receive felling licences or woodland creation or management grants.
Although there are no woodland SSSIs in Barnsley, woodland identified as Local Wildlife Sites has a presumption against permission for change of use.
Individual or groups of trees may be protected by Tree Preservation Orders.
Felling and woodland management where protected species are present may commit offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Protected species include all breeding birds and all species of bats. Licences may be needed from Natural England.
Improving woodland habitat
Buglife: Managing oakwoods
Butterfly conservation: Management
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1256 woodland species were studied in the 2013 State of Nature report.
60% had suffered overall declines and 34% decreased strongly.
A few - like Buzzard and Great Spotted Woodpecker - increased.
What is being done?