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    Growing threat to ancient woodland

    Despite 30 per cent of Cornwall being an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, elements of its landscape could still be improved, and the Woodland Trust believes local people can help.

    The trust is working to protect the county’s irreplaceable ancient woods, restore what has already been damaged or degraded, and plant new woods to not only improve the environment and increase wildlife habitats, but also create areas for people to enjoy.

    Ancient woodland is one of the few remaining living links to our past. It’s the richest, most valuable habitat for wildlife we have. Because of their unique history and ecology, ancient woods are irreplaceable, yet they cover only 2 per cent of the land area of the UK.

    In Cornwall alone, six areas of ancient woodland are under threat, which means protecting them is of paramount importance.

    Historically, ancient woodland was felled during the First World War. Much of it was then replaced with conifers to increase the country’s timber supply. Today, modern development and construction are the woodland’s main threats – with climate change and tree disease also posing major risks for this fragile habitat.

    In the past ten years, we have lost 135 ancient woods due to development and one of these was in Cornwall. Only 2.7 per cent of ancient woodland remains in the country; it is irreplaceable and home to more species of conservation concern than any other land habitat. The Independent Panel on Forestry has recommended greater ancient woodland protection, and the Woodland Trust is determined to ensure this happens.

    Cornwall residents can also do their bit though. The Woodland Trust’s Enough is Enough campaign aims to encourage the Government to introduce eight short and long-term actions that will help to save Cornwall and the UK’s ancient woodland. All people have to do is sign up online by visiting the Enough is Enough page on the trust’s website.

    As well as protecting – and indeed restoring – existing woods, the Woodland Trust is working to double native woodland cover in the UK, and to ensure everyone has a wood within walking distance of their home.

    Cornwall currently has almost 8 per cent more tree cover than the rest of the country. However, the percentage of people in the county who have a wood within walking distance of their home is half the national average.

    Local people can help to improve this figure by planting trees in their area. The trust is currently giving away free trees to community groups and schools who want to improve their local green spaces. So far this year, nearly 6,500 trees have been planted in Cornwall.

    I would urge anyone who would like to plant trees this autumn and winter to apply via our website as soon as they can, so they don’t miss this wonderful opportunity. Full details will be in our next article in this environment series.

    Planting trees is a fantastic way of bringing together groups of people – particularly children – who want to improve their local environment, learn more about wildlife or create a lasting memorial for those who have made a mark on their community.

    With the help of local people, the Woodland Trust hopes Cornwall will build a new cultural connection with trees and bring them back into all of our lives.

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