The extensive woodlands of Savernake Forest and West Woods form the Wooded Plateau. This is an attractive, intimate rural landscape, with qualities of peacefulness and seclusion in contrast to the remoteness and isolation of the nearby open chalk downs. Savernake is an ancient woodland established by 1086 as a royal hunting forest and now designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. An attractive woodland-farmland mosaic surrounds the forest, with a few areas of more open arable land.
- In the past, intensification in farming leading to loss of environmental assets including biodiversity archaeological features and creation of large open fields;
- Need for woodland management, particularly areas of ancient and seminatural woodlands formerly managed by coppicing and as wood pasture;
- Loss of hedgerows boundaries and mature hedgerow trees, plus poor management of remaining hedgerows;
- Climate change - potential impact on woodland and parkland including increase in non-native species and tree loss (drought/windthrow);
- Intense development pressures, notably for new housing in the villages in the eastern part of the area, which have good rail links to london - potential harmful effect on the character of the small nucleated hamlets and villages, plus demand for housing stock leading to inflated prices and absence of affordable housing;
- Loss of tranquillity.
Key management requirements
- The overall management objective is to conserve and enhance the character of the wooded plateau with its extensive woodlands and farmland mosaic, special qualities of peacefulness and seclusion, and wealth of sustainable recreation opportunities. Key features to be conserved and enhanced are:
- The extensive woodland blocks at savernake forest and west wood, plus the numerous ancient and semi-natural woodlands of great biodiversity value;
- The corridor of the kennet and avon canal and associated features;
- Intimate mosaic of woodland and farmland created particularly the intact pattern of hedgerows and smaller woodland blocks;
- Remnant areas of heathland, with opportunities for management and habitat restoration;
- Areas of open access, woodland walks and recreational paths;
- Historic parkland and formal designed landscapes of tottenham park and littlecote park, with their permanent pasture, parkland trees, avenues and rides;
- The distinct pattern and character of the settlement with a remote uninhabited western plateau and small hamlets and villages in the east;
- The quiet, rural character of the plateau, which in the more open areas is particularly vulnerable to large scale or tall infrastructures.