1. ITV Report

Protection for ancient West Country woodland underway

A project to protect ancient woodland in the south west has begun. Photo: ITV West Country

Conservation charity Plantlife has begun a new project to protect and preserve the ancient trees and coastal woodlands of the South West.

This comes as a result of increased danger to the sites including climate change, air pollution and tree diseases.

The lichens that live on the trees in Quantock Hills of Somerset are particularly of focus.

Linchen is considered an important part of the ecosystem. Credit: ITV West Country

The ancient oak woodland down Willoughby Cleeve into Hodder's Coombe has been there for thousands of years old and are an important habitat for wildlife and rare plant species like moss and lichen.

The lichen don't cause any harm to the tree. Both don't have roots so don't go into the tissue of the tree. They are an important part of the ecosystem.

Philip Bruss, a National Trust ranger says woodlands like these must be protected. Credit: ITV West Country

This is something we call temperate rainforest when you've got trees that can support other plants living within the branches it's an incredibly rare ecosystem and something that's becoming more fragmented and gradually becoming lost so it's really important that we protect these places.

– Philip Bruss, National Trust ranger

The project is backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and it's running in partnership with other organistations like the National Trust.

Alison Smith from Plantlife says the rate of loss of ancient woodland in Britain is greater than the Amazon rainforest. Credit: ITV West Country

The rate of loss of ancient woodland in Britain is actually greater than the rate of loss in the Amazon rainforest and It's really, really important. We're very lucky in the South West of England to have such amazing woodland. It almost has that sort of mystical quality with all these branches hanging down with lichens and mosses, so protecting these now for the future is critical.

– Alison Smith, Plantlife

Woods like these are said to have inspired generations of writers, poets and painters including Wordsworth, Coleridge and Tolkien.

The conservation work they are now doing here is designed to protect them for generations to come.