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1 Current status
Lowland wood pastures and parklands are the products of historic land management
systems, and represent a vegetation structure rather than a typical plant community.
Their structure normally consists of large open grown high forest trees or pollards in a
mix of grassland or other habitats.
Wood pastures and parklands were widespread in lowland England through the
medieval age until the early 19th Century, when many were lost through enclosure.
This decline has continued into the 20th Century. Although regionally important
examples are scattered throughout the country (such as Dunham Park in Cheshire)
there are no reliable statistics on the extent of the resource. The best estimate is of 10-
20,000ha given in the UK Biodiversity Steering group report.
Sites are frequently of historic, cultural and landscape importance and are outstanding
not just nationally but at a European level. This is a Priority Habitat in the UK
Biodiversity Action Plan.
In NVC terms the habitat is most closely associated with W10 & W16 Oak woodland
& W14 & W15 Beech woodlands although other action plan priority habitats may be
present as part of the overall structure.
Four broad types of site with varying origin are included in the UK HAP as follows:
- Those derived from medieval forests and emparkments, wooded commons and
parks and pastures containing trees.
- Parklands originating in the 19th Century but containing a vestige of older
trees from a former landscape.
- Neglected and unmanaged wood pasture with veteran trees in a matrix of
secondary woodland, or scrub.
- Parkland or wood pasture that has been converted to other land uses but where
surviving veteran trees are of nature conservation interest.
This habitat is important for a number of priority species including invertebrates such
as saproxylic beetles, rare lichens and fungi. Trees also provide roost sites and
foraging areas for bats and hole-nesting birds. The principal tree species found are
Pedunculate Oak, Beech, Ash, Wych Elm, Sweet Chestnut and Lime. Dead wood
both standing and fallen is an essential component of this habitat.
There are no estimates of the total area, status or condition of wood pasture and
parkland habitats in North Merseyside, and the majority of sites are likely to fall into
the final three classification categories of the UK HAP.
Examples of this habitat type under varying regimes of management from neglected
through to intensive include Halsnead Park and Knowsley Park in Knowsley, Ince
Blundell and Meols Hall in Sefton, Croxteth and Calderstones Parks, Sefton Park,
Speke Hall Liverpool and Bold Heath and Sherdley Park in St Helens. Calderstones
Park contains an important example of a veteran tree, The Allerton Oak.