Rewilding with Trees by Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Ancient woodland 1

Ancient Woodland

Rewilding with Trees

What is rewilding?

Rewilding has been defined as restoring healthy ecosystems by creating wild, biodiverse spaces. It rebuilds ecosystems that have previously been modified by human disturbance, using the plant and animal life that would have been present had the disturbance never occurred. When such ecosystems are restored at a landscape scale it can help to mitigate climate change, and provide socio-economic benefits for communities.

Why natural regeneration is best

Around ten thousand years ago after the climate had warmed at the end of the Ice Age the tundra habitat that had then prevailed in the UK gave way to the primeval woodland that we consider to be native today, remnants of which may be found in what are defined as ancient woodlands, those deemed to be over four hundred years old. This process occurred through natural regeneration, the spread of both flora and fauna from warmer latitudes.

roe & bluebells

Native roe deer in a bluebell wood

These woodlands are rich in species diversity containing complex interdependent ecosystems, far better than any man-made creation. They have proved to be resilient in the face of the ongoing post Ice Age climate fluctuations, thriving during the extremes of cold, heat, wet and drought that have occurred since. If allowed to do so these woodlands can expand outwards to regain their former territory through natural regeneration, with the seeds distributed by the wind and in the droppings of wild birds and deer.

Giving nature a helping hand

Sometimes it is advantageous to expedite this process, particularly if seed banks have become impoverished by intensive agriculture, forestry or previous building work. Ideally seeds and seedlings will be sourced from native trees, shrubs and ground flora local to the area, but before these are sown or planted take care to clear away any non-native or commercially derived species first. A sterile seed bed can be helpful in this respect and resist the temptation to add fertilisers, the truly wild plants just don’t need it and it can encourage the more vigorous species to become dominant. New woodland (2)

New woodland planting with regenerated ground flora

Things to avoid

Straight row monocultures of similar aged species, especially of non-natives and commercial cultivars. Avoid using plastic tree guards if at all possible, over time they can degrade into micro plastics, find their way into watercourses and cause serious oceanic pollution.

Avoid using this method of tree planting!

Instead accept that some of your planting will be lost or retarded by being nibbled by both large and small herbivores. This is an entirely natural process and over time will lead to the development of the mosaic habitat most favourable to creatures such as dormice, red squirrels and woodland butterflies.

Butterflies thrive in deer grazed glades


Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email  phone 07890 869918 logo & name 26.10.21

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