Our work on Wenlock Edge
Conservation work on Wenlock Edge happens all year round. We have a team of staff and volunteers working to enhance the woodland and grassland habitats of Wenlock Edge and to monitor the wildlife. Discover more about our work to protect this special place.
Managing special habitats
Much of Wenlock Edge is ancient woodland and some areas are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for the important geology and rare ground flora. Ancient lime and yew trees can also be found often marking ancient holloways which criss-cross the Edge.
The woodland is actively managed and has been for many centuries, although in different ways and with different aims. This has led to an interesting variety of tree species and woodland types. In autumn and winter, we spend a lot of time thinning and coppicing to produce biofuel, improve the woodland structure and enhance wildlife habitat.
An actively and sensitively managed woodland is a healthy and vibrant woodland that can provide benefits for nature, wildlife, people and the local economy.
Fragments of rare limestone grassland still exist on the shallow dip slope of the Edge, but 98 per cent of this habitat has been lost in the UK since the end of the Second World War. In summer, we mow the flower-rich meadows and make hay, while our flock of Hebridean sheep works hard grazing all year round. This removes nutrients from the soil, discouraging vigorous grasses and coarse vegetation, and enables lime-loving specialist plants to thrive such as pyramidal orchid, eyebright and viper’s bugloss.
Looking after wildlife
Wenlock Edge is a refuge for a range of plant and animal rarities. The hazel coppice supports Shropshire’s largest population of hazel dormice, a nationally endangered species, and locally-scarce butterfly orchids and violet helleborine dot the woodland floor in summer.
Pied flycatchers’ nest on the woodland edges and a variety of butterflies shelter in the old quarries on sunny days. We undertake a range of monitoring projects including nest box checks, wildlife distribution mapping and habitat condition surveys to help inform our management.
The ash dieback fungus (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus), which causes leaf loss and crown dieback and can lead to tree death, has wiped out 90 per cent of ash trees in Denmark and is widespread throughout central Europe. Ash trees account for 60 per cent of the woodland cover on Wenlock Edge and we're doing all we can to tackle the effects of the disease.
How will the disease affect trees on Wenlock Edge?
The disease weakens the tree's structure and makes it more vulnerable to secondary infection. This makes the infected tree prone to uprooting and more likely to lose their branches, which makes them unsafe to be around. You can identify trees affected by ash dieback that are due to be felled this year, by looking for the orange circles on the tree bark.
How we’re tackling ash dieback
As part of their tree safety work, rangers have carefully assessed the areas where infected ash trees will cause a health and safety risk to people or property. These trees will be felled to remove that risk and to give our other native trees in the area the best chance of spreading naturally. Where trees are infected but don’t pose a risk to people, they will be left to rot and become valued habitats for woodland wildlife.
How you can help
We may have to temporarily close off some bridle paths and footpaths while we carry out essential tree safety work.
As a charity, we rely on the generosity of supporters to look after the outdoor spaces in our care. Not only do you help to conserve beautiful landscapes and protect precious plants and wildlife, but also ensure that future generations have places they can find freedom from everyday life, reconnect with the natural world and make memories to treasure.
With your support, we can continue to protect the irreplaceable, for everyone, for ever.
With your ongoing support, we're able to continue our vital conservation work. Thank you for helping to protect these special places.
Explore the Shropshire countryside at Wenlock Edge on a circular walk or try out the play area and complete some of the '50 things to do before you're 11¾' activities.
Read about our strategy 'For everyone, for ever' here at the National Trust, which will take the organisation through to 2025.