Why we're restoring wood pasture at Abinger Roughs

In this, our 125th anniversary year, we're launching an exciting project to establish an 85 acre (34.5 hectares) wood pasture at Abinger Roughs.

Why is wood pasture so important?

Wood pasture is an open, rich habitat that allows nature to thrive. It contains a mixture of older trees with lots of space around them, open ground, some scrub and some hedges. Open veteran trees are especially attractive to insects, bats and birds. Open ground and grassland encourage wildflowers, and insects such as bees and butterflies. Scrubland and hedges provide protection for birds and small mammals. Together this environment encourages wildlife to thrive, and it’s so special that it’s classified as a priority habitat under the Government’s UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP).

This project forms part of our ongoing Land, Outdoors and Nature programme. In 2017, the Trust announced* ambitious plans to create 25,000 hectares (62,000 acres) of new habitats by 2025, to reverse species loss and the effects of climate change across the UK.

Historical traditions

Abinger Roughs is a parcel of land that dates back to ancient times. The Roughs and surrounding fields contain burial mounds, pit dwellings, Roman villas and vineyards as well as Georgian and Victorian pathways, tree planting and shrubs. The Domesday Book of 1086 records woodland and pasture here. 

Wood pasture is in fact, a very traditional aspect of the English landscape. In the past, animals were grazed here, while timber and wood were harvested for buildings, tools, fences, furniture and firewood. Today the country's best surviving wood pasture is mostly found in medieval deer parks, royal hunting grounds and old wooded commons.

" Given the history of Abinger Roughs over the centuries, it’s very fitting that the National Trust in the Surrey Hills should choose Abinger Roughs as the site for our next fantastic habitat creation project in our 125th anniversary year. "
- Henry Barnard, Head Lead Ranger, North Downs West

What happens next?

There are a few stages to this project:

  • Re-fence the entire perimeter of Abinger Roughs and install a central division
  • Thin the woodland to allow more light in and promote ground flora
  • Reduce the amount of invasive, non-native Rhododendron ponticum
  • “Halo release” veteran trees giving them space to breath and grow long barnches
  • The selective pollarding of trees by cutting back branches above grazing height to promote growth 
  • Introduce some cattle graze the site

There will be no changes to any rights of way and the project will open up more of Abinger Roughs for people to enjoy.

This process will produce a large amount of timber. The smaller trunks will be sold for biomass, or used as wood fuel through National Trust offices in the Surrey Hills. The larger trunks will be milled and seasoned at Landbarn farm where our carpentry team will use them to create a huge range of items and support the work of the Surrey Hills team.

Interested in knowing more?

If you would like to find out more about the project, why not come along to one of our walks in the summer. Meet at 10:00 in Abinger Roughs carpark on either Friday 22nd May or Friday 26th June.

Henry Barnard Lead Ranger North Downs West

Email: henry.barnard@nationaltrust.org.uk

*See our news article ”Our plan to restore nature at our places” listed below.