Trees and woodlands in the South Devon AONB
The amount of woodland covering the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is less than in many other places. We have only 7%, compared with 11.6% for the UK and 46% for Europe as a whole. Even so, trees are a very special part of our landscape, especially the dense oak woodlands which line the estuaries and the willow scrub on the valley bottoms. Because the soils of the area are productive for agriculture, the woodland we do have is mostly on the steeper and less accessible valley sides which are more difficult to farm.
Who looks after them?
Some important woodlands in the AONB are owned by conservation organisations like the Woodland Trust and the National Trust. Others are owned by private estates such as the Lupton Estate, the Raleigh Estate and the Sharpham Estate. There are eight small community woodlands run by local groups. But most are small woodlands owned by farmers and individual landowners. We do not have any Forestry Commission woods in our area. A few woods are actively managed for productive sawmilling timber, such as the Flete Estate on the Erme Estuary. Some others, particularly “ancient woodlands” acquired recently by the Woodland Trust in the Avon Valley, are being converted back from commercial softwood plantations to original oak woodland for conservation reasons. Some are managed in a low-key way for firewood or fencing materials. Much is neglected and unmanaged.
There is an active tree warden network within the South Devon AONB which is promoted nationally by the Tree Council. Tree wardens are community volunteers who aim to conserve and protect trees in their parishes and ensure a wider understanding of the importance of trees.