Fungus growing on the woodland floor, Farnham Heath RSPB reserve, Surrey

Woodlands

There are always things to see and do in this magical habitat, whether you’re crunching through fallen leaves or searching for shy wildlife in hidden glades.

What makes this habitat different?

Our woodlands can be eerily quiet in winter, or full of life and noise during the breeding season.

When spring arrives, there's no better experience than walking past carpets of bluebells while listening to the babble of a nightingale singing.

Woodlands are Britain’s richest and most diverse habitat. Much of the UK used to be covered by woodland, and thousands of species are adapted to live in them. 

True woodlands are different from forests grown for wood to chop down and sell because they are made up of many more types of plants and animals.

Forests grown for wood to sell usually have only one kind of fur tree, often not even native to the UK! 

What lives there?

Woodlands come in many different sizes and types, so what you’ll see will depend on where you are, what the trees are like, and, of course, what time of year it is.

Without a doubt, spring is the best time to visit woodland. The trees are covered in new leaves, birds are singing, flowers blooming and the whole place is simply alive.

A huge variety of plants, shrubs and trees grow in our woodlands, all providing homes and food for even bigger numbers of creatures of all sizes.

Oak trees can support more than 200 insect species alone.

On the forest floor, delicate flowers like bluebells, wood anemones and celandines grow.

Native red squirrels can be seen in some areas of the country, but butterflies, like the aptly named speckled-wood, are widespread.

In Caledonian pine forest in Scotland, you might see cheeky crested tits or red squirrels.

In oak woodland in the north and west, pied flycatchers arrive in spring and set up home in tree holes, while nuthatches call loudly from ancient woodland.

In autumn, jays look for acorns to hide for the winter and woodcocks arrive from across the North Sea in October.

If you go for a woodland walk in winter, they might make you jump by bursting out of the dead leaves on the ground.

Why is it in trouble?

  • Vanishing trees

    Few truly native woods survive today, and the area covered by this habitat is decreasing. Research has shown that woodland birds have suffered some of the biggest declines in recent years, so we’re working to find out why and what we can do.

  • Alien invaders

    Plants like the rhododendron may have beautiful flowers, but they originate from all the way over in Asia which means our UK woodlands can't cope with them. Their big leaves stop sunlight reaching the ground and they produce toxins that stop other plants from growing. There are many other plants and animals that don't belong in the UK and their spread causes a lot of damage to this habitat.  

See it for yourself!

Each season brings a different atmosphere to our woodland reserves. There is always something new to experience, from carpets of wildflowers and birdsong in spring to the peace of winter, broken only by deer crossing a clearing or a party of tits passing through the treetops.

Woodland reserves

To find out more, pick a marker from the map or zoom in.
    • Blean Woods

      Blean Woods

      This is a wonderful place for quiet walks in beautiful ancient woodland. There are five trails of up to eight miles long that meander through the woods. In summer, look out for damselflies, dragonflies and butterflies.

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    • Chapel Wood

      Chapel Wood

      This is a fine broadleaved woodland in a beautiful and historic setting: on a steep hillside, crowned by an Iron Age hill fort, with a stream running down either side.

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    • Church Wood

      Church Wood

      This is a beautiful place for a quiet woodland walk. You can take a stroll along dappled paths through beech, ash and oak trees. In springtime you can enjoy a carpet of sweet scented bluebells and there is also a flourishing meadow.

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    • Coombes Valley

      Coombes Valley

      This is a delightful oak woodland to walk through - especially in spring and early summer when lots of migrating birds come to breed at the reserve.

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    • Garston Wood

      Garston Wood

      This ancient wood is at its best when its breathtaking carpets of bluebells, wood anemones and primroses are in bloom (mid-April to the end of May). Look for signs of badgers and fallow deer.

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    • Pulborough Brooks

      Pulborough Brooks

      Set in the heart of beautiful countryside, this reserve is a fantastic day out for people of all ages. Walks lead through hedge-lined paths to viewing areas and hides where volunteers are often on hand to help point out the wildlife.

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    • Strumpshaw Fen

      Strumpshaw Fen

      Walk round the reedbeds, woodlands and orchid-rich meadows and you could chance upon marsh harriers, bitterns and kingfishers. Come in spring and summer when the meadows bloom with flowers, and see an array of dragonflies and butterflies.

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    • Fowlmere

      Fowlmere

      The reedbeds and pools here are fed by natural chalk springs, and a chalk stream runs through the reserve. Special birds include kingfishers, water rails, and nine species of warblers, including sedge, reed and grasshopper warblers.

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    • Fairburn Ings

      Fairburn Ings

      With pond-dipping, regular fun events and walks to help you get away from it all, RSPB Fairburn Ings is the ideal place for adults and children to find out more about wildlife.

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    • Arne

      Arne

      This is an unusual and special landscape where you can enjoy a vast expanse of open heathland and old oak woodland. Arne is a fantastic place for family walks at any time of year and we have regular children's days.

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    • Swell Wood

      Swell Wood

      The ancient oaks of Swell Wood are part of a continuous strip of woodland extending some 10 miles along the ridge from Langport to the Blackdown Hills.

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    • The Lodge

      The Lodge

      The nature reserve here opened in 1961. The woodland, heath and acid grassland along the Greensand Ridge are being restored to form the largest stretch of heathland in Bedfordshire.

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    • Wolves Wood

      Wolves Wood

      This reserve is one of the few remnants of the ancient woodland that used to cover East Anglia. The RSPB manages it using the traditional method of coppicing (a special way of cutting the trees to let light in).

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    • Fairy Glen

      Fairy Glen

      Walk by a fast stream and gleaming waterfalls in this wooded glen, looking for grey wagtails, dippers and buzzards. This beautiful steep-sided valley is an oasis of calm, but do take care as paths are rugged in places.

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    • Glenborrodale

      Glenborrodale

      Here on the shore of Loch Sunart, on the rugged Ardnamurchan peninsula, wood warblers nest in the spring, along with redstarts, spotted flycatchers and other woodland birds. You may well see an otter along the shore, and seals are common.

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    • Wood of Cree

      Wood of Cree

      The Wood of Cree is the largest ancient wood in southern Scotland. In spring, the woodland really comes alive, with bluebells on the ground and birdsong in the air. The wood is the perfect place to see willow tits.

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    • Lake Vyrnwy

      Lake Vyrnwy

      Our visitor centre and well-stocked shop are the ideal places to start your visit. Join a trail through the woodland and wildlife is soon all around you.

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    • Ynys-hir

      Ynys-hir

      Ynys-hir mixes Welsh oak woodland with wet grassland and saltmarshes. Feast your eyes from any of our seven hides - look out for birds of prey.

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    Top tips for visits

    These tips will help you to make the most of your visit to one of our woodland reserves:

    • Visit early in the day when bird activity is at a peak
    • Use your ears as well as your eyes - listen for bird songs and calls
    • Try to walk softly and make as little noise as possible to increase your chances of getting good views of wildlife
    • Remember to look down as well as up in the treetops - it is easy to walk past wildflowers, insects and fungi
    • Birds are easier to see when there are fewer leaves on the trees