Woodland cover in the Cotswolds AONB is estimated to be 20,657 ha (10.1% of the AONB area). This area is based on latest available Forestry Commission data, however the long rotation in forestry means that there is unlikely to have been significant change in the area or nature of forestry in the AONB, unlike farming.
Woodland in the AONB mainly comprises broadleaved woodland (65% of woodland cover), followed by coniferous woodland (15%) and mixed woodland (13%). ‘Other’ woodland includes felled woodland (245ha), shrub (257 ha) and young trees (842 ha). Ash and beech are the predominant broadleaved species, with approximately
4,400 ha of ash and 4,000 ha of beech. Oak and mixed broadleaves account for a further 3,000ha.
Ancient beech woods tend to be concentrated along the scarp and ‘incised valleys’, whereas mixed oak, ash, sycamore and maple tend to be concentrated on the dip slope. There are in addition areas of lowland wood pasture and parkland, associated with large estates, and some large blocks of conifer plantation.
The area of woodland in the AONB on ancient woodland sites is 9,292 ha (44.9% of woodland cover and 4.6% of the AONB area). This includes Ancient & Semi-Natural Woodland (5,940ha) and Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (3,352ha).
Ancient woodland, especially beech, is a particularly distinct and prominent feature of the Cotswolds – being a prominent feature of the scarp and incised valleys. Part of this woodland is included within the Cotswold Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation.
New Tree Planting
Most of the new tree planting undertaken over the last 20 years has taken place on farms and has been in the form of new mixed broadleaved woodland. This new planting has been largely stimulated by the Forestry Commission’s Woodland Grant Scheme and the supplementary Farm Woodland Premium Scheme. Motivations include improving shooting and screening land from roads, an issue which is of concern to the Conservation Board given the potential impacts on future landscape character and views.
Defra June Survey data indicates that the area of woodland on farms has increased by 3,610ha over the period 1990 to 2007. Although year-on-year comparisons of areas must be treated with caution (due to changes in the number and source of survey responses), there also appears to have been a steady increase in woodland on farm holdings as a percentage of total agricultural area from 4.3% in 1990 to 6.1% in 2007, see Table 3-3. This is in line with regional and national trends over the same period – woodland on farm holdings as a proportion of total agricultural area has increased from 2.32% to 3.29% in England.