The terms ‘parkland’ and ‘wood pasture’ refer to large areas of grazing pasture with well dispersed mature trees, many of which are now considered to be ancient or veteran trees. In fact, a significant proportion of the ancient trees in Europe are found in UK parkland habitat. In general, wood pasture is an ancient form of woodland management that can be traced back at least to Anglo Saxon and Roman times, but probably dates back much further and includes areas of old wooded common land. The term ‘parkland’, by contrast, tends to be used to describe land that was designated as Royal forest, medieval deer parks or for landscapes designed for large estates.
The habitats are extremely important from a biodiversity perspective, and not only for the number of living ancient and veteran trees present which often support rich lichen and bryophyte populations. Of equal importance, in a time when many ageing trees in woods open to the public are cut down for health and safety reasons, the dead standing snags and fallen logs in wood pasture and parkland provide habitat for hole-nesting birds and for the declining invertebrate and lichen populations associated with dead and rotting timber. Similarly, the grazing animals associated with the pasture, which often include deer, provide a source of dung for its specialised invertebrate fauna.