Woodlands In The Borough
The borough boasts a wide range of managed woodland which, as well as supporting a great diversity of wildlife, provide attractive walks for both residents and visitors a like.
The Hothfield Heathlands Nature Reserve is an extensive area of heathland, woodland and river edge habitats. The site is jointly owned by Ashford Borough Council and Kent Wildlife Trust and is managed by the Trust.
Hothfield Heathlands are an ancient fragment of our landscape which date back to prehistoric times. They have been shaped and fashioned by many thousands of years of human stewardship and are home to a fantastically rich and varied wildlife.
For more information, please visit Kent Wildlife Trust.
Kings Wood, Challock
A must for all visitors, the Kings Wood at Challock is a stunning 1,500 acre ancient woodland and a living arts space.
Kings Wood, is a coppiced ancient woodland which was once the hunting ground of King Henry VIII, is now the site of an exciting arts project managed by Stour Valley Arts.
It features sculptures which draw on the natural landscape and materials and creates art which works with the countryside rather than imposing upon it. A three mile green route not only takes in the art works, but also reveals the full beauty of the wood itself and links into other walks including the shorter "brown route".
The sheer size of the wood means that wildlife such as deer, badgers, owls and foxes can all live without too much disturbance from visitors and woodmen.
Ashford Warren and Hoad’s Wood
Situated close to Ashford’s centre and surrounded by roads and a railway, Ashford Warren and Hoad's Wood cover an area of around 38 hectares. The site is a complex of wet meadow pasture, acid grassland, woodland ponds, secondary oak woodland, a disused quarry, chestnut coppice and former pasture.
The tree species within these habitats include oak, sweet chestnut, silver birch, ash, rowan, and sycamore. Among these, there are some fine veteran and ancient oaks and sweet chestnuts. Along with the acid grassland area, the veteran and ancient trees provide the greatest wildlife value on the site.
The Warren is also important for wildlife. The acid grasslands are unimproved, and contain plants such as sheep's sorrel and bird's foot. The ponds are home to amphibians, aquatic insects and the uncommon water violet. A wide variety of birds also inhabit the site.
Access is via Warren Lane (turning off A292 Maidstone Road). There is ample parking and a network of way-marked paths through the site starting from the car park.
Kent Wildlife Trust is working with the owners, Ashford Borough Council, for the long-term future of this nature reserve.
This remnant of a much larger Ice Age forest still provides timber and is a haven for wildlife. An oak canopy shades hazel and sweet chestnut, while a layer of bluebells, campions and yellow archangel make the woodland floor a mass of colour in spring.
The woodland is said to be more than 400 years old. Located six miles from Ashford, near to Hamstreet and Ruckinge, the site is on the escarpment of the old Saxon shoreline, and indeed part of the Saxon Shore Way runs through the woods. Plants such as bluebell, primrose and wood anemone flourish, and plants of open areas such as goldenrod and heath cudweed colonise the coppiced wood.
You can see many breeding birds on the reserve including:
- Spotted Flycatcher
- Nightingale, Hawfinch and Sparrowhawk often present too
The woods support a large number of rare invertebrates, most notably species living on deadwood and butterflies, such as the Duke of Burgundy fritillary.
The site is also of archaeological interest and contains many well-preserved earthworks for you to view, including a medieval ditch and bank system and the remains of a staggered medieval dam. The area is also a National Nature Reserve.
Access is just off of the A2070, heading from Ashford towards Hamstreet.
This large complex of woodland is a designated Forest Nature Reserve with conservation its main objective. The 800 acre wood supports nationally-important moth and butterfly populations.
Orlestone Forest is nationally regarded as one of the most important conservation area for invertebrates (mainly insects) in the UK. This large ancient woodland site near Ham Street is home to several hundred invertebrate species, including 39 nationally rare species and 134 nationally scarce species. Several species are known to only exist in Orlestone Forest.
Ashford Community Woodland
Ashford Community Woodland was originally set aside by Ashford Borough Council to celebrate the Millennium. The woodland, which lies south west of Ashford in the Singleton area, comprises of semi natural broadleaf woodland planted as shelterbelt in 1985, new woodland planting in 2000-2004, planted and naturally established mixed scrub, and lowland meadow areas. The site was designed with input from local residents, and broad areas were all named by local people.
The Ashford Community Woodland is accessible for visitors via informal and formal footpaths, some of which are surfaced to be accessible to all users. The gates on site are all RADAR accessible for wheel chair users. There is also informal seating, dog bins, interpretation boards and sculptures and a secure car park that can be used when needed for events and task days.
The nearby Singleton Environment Centre also has a car park with 35 spaces, a licensed café and bar, toilets and three meeting rooms/classrooms.
Besides trees and plant species, the woodland is home to a population of reptiles (slow worms, grass snakes and common lizards) that were trans-located from development sites elsewhere in Ashford since 2000. Bird species identified at the site include nightingales, lesser whitethroat, spotted flycatcher, chiffchaff, whitethroat and willow warbler. There are plans for the site to be formally designated as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR).
Site management is led by a dedicated volunteer group called the Ashford Community Woodland Group.
Ancient woodland is defined as an area that has been wooded continuously since at least 1600 AD. It is a nationally important and threatened habitat, and its existence over hundreds of years has preserved irreplaceable ecological and historical features.
About 11% of the area of the borough is covered by ancient woodland. Some of it is protected by Tree Preservation Orders but national and local planning policies (para 118 of the National Planning Policy Framework and CC11 of the council’s Core Strategy) also seek to ensure that this irreplaceable resource is only lost in exceptional cases.
Details of the ancient woodland in the borough can be seen on our interactive maps and further information from Natural England and the Revision of the Ancient Woodland Inventory for Ashford borough [pdf] 5MB.
The borough has many very old trees that make a special contribution to the landscape and often to the history of an area. In 2009 we supported the Conservation Volunteers to survey these old trees and they found 314 veteran trees, 69 ancient trees and another 332 of notable interest.
The results of the survey are available on our veteran tree map.
What is a veteran tree?
There is no precise definition but generally they are:
- Trees of interest biologically, aesthetically or culturally because of their age
- Trees in the ancient stage of their life
- Trees that are old relative to others of the same species
- The girth of a tree is not a reliable criterion because different species and individuals of tree have very different life spans and grow at different rates
Why are veteran trees important?
Veteran trees are an irreplaceable part of England's landscape and biological heritage. They are of international importance as the UK is host to many more veteran trees than any other Northern European country.