Big Wood Eco System
Big Wood is classified as Ancient Woodland. All woods which have been continuously woodland for over 500 years qualify as ancient woodland. In fact one can trace the area of which Big Wood forms a part back 1000 years to the Domesday Book. Ancient woodland now covers only 2% of England, far less than in the rest of Europe. Yet ancient woodland is amongst our most valuable eco systems.
Of course the trees in Big Wood have not been in existence since 1600 let alone 1086. Most of the oaks are 100-150 years old although there are a few over 300 years old. But the area has constantly been a woodland site through the ages. Therefore we know the soil still holds the seeds and spores of the original native species and that is why the Friends organise work parties to open up some glades by coppicing the understory and removing ground bramble and ivy as well as other invasive species such as conifers and rhododendron to let in the sunlight.
However other areas need to be left undisturbed. The plan is to leave the central section of Big Wood undisturbed because the dappled shade of this idea is an ideal environment for Wild Service trees. These trees are mainly found in and are characteristic of ancient woods. There are over 80 Wild Service trees in Big Wood.
Standing dead trees and fallen debris are very important for the eco system of the wood. They provide an array of micro habitat for fungi, mosses and birds. A remarkable 40% of woodland life is dependent on this ecosystem. This is why dead standing trees are left in situ and why it is so important not to disturb piles of wood or fallen trees because they provide such an important habitat.
Woodland is important in so many ways. Trees are essential to humans as they store carbon, improve air quality, offer shade and shelter, stabilise the soil and mitigate floods as well as providing an important habitat for wild life. According to research, just looking at trees alleviates stress and being in a woodland environment helps ones’ well being.
Big Wood, Hampstead Garden Suburb