Review of AWI in the RBWM Completed!

TVERC recently completed a review of the Ancient Woodland Inventory (AWI) in The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM).

Ancient woodlands are classified as land with continuous woodland cover since at least 1600. This includes Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland (ASNW), Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) and Ancient Wood Pasture (AWP).

Ancient woodlands over 2ha in size are recorded in Ancient Woodland Inventories which were compiled in the 1990’s for each County, by the Nature Conservancy Council and are now administered by Natural England. These inventories have become an important tool for policy makers and planners, whilst also assisting land managers to identify key areas for the restoration and planting of native woodlands and increasing awareness of the importance of ancient woodland.

Whilst the compilation of the original inventory was an extremely valuable process at the time, new information and advances in technology mean that its inaccuracies and omissions can now be addressed.

The project reviewed all woodlands on the existing AWI and all woodlands less than 2ha in the RBWM.

Each wooded polygon included in the review underwent an evidence-based decision-making process to determine its ancient woodland status and assigned a confidence level. Inclusion on the revised AWI was based upon a range of different factors including:

  • Woodland on aerial imagery
  • Presence on a suite of historical maps (Epochs, Tithes and OSD)
  • Topographical features – position (in relation to a parish boundary, for instance), shape, etc.
  • Survey information- long-established woodland indicator species, archaeological features, current and past management of the site.
  • Any other supporting evidence (e.g. woodland name)

The current AWI for RBWM includes ASNW (including AWP), and PAWS. The woodlands included in the AWI revised by TVERC have been assigned to one of the following classifications:

  • Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland (ASNW)
  • Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS)
  • Ancient Wood Pasture (AWP)

The existing area of woodland in the RBWM included in the current AWI is 863ha; following the work carried out by TVERC the revised area of woodland to be included in the AWI is 1,230ha. The total areas attributed to each ancient woodland classification can be found on Table 1.

The review of the available evidence resulted in some areas on the current AWI being removed as well as new areas of probable Ancient Woodland added. Some of the woodland classifications on the current AWI were changed from ASNW to PAWS and vice versa; as well as including/defining areas of AWP. Figure 1 shows the overall changes to the AWI as proposed by TVERC.

The revised layer of probable Ancient Woodland in RBWM will be sent to Natural England (NE) as a proposed inclusion and update to their existing AWI for the area.

Revising the AWI will have a number of important benefits and enable sound decisions to be made about the acceptability of proposed developments, identifying preferred locations for strategic sites and infrastructure, directing biodiversity conservation work in the most effective way, climate change adaptation and mitigation, wood fuel initiatives and historic landscapes.

The improved dataset will help the RBWM to comply with the following legislation and policy:

  • National Planning Policy Framework 2018
  • Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, S41
  • Independent Panel on Forestry 2012
  • Biodiversity 2020 – A strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services 2012
  • Berkshire Biodiversity Strategy

Posted: July 4, 2019