21 May 2019

Windsor Great Park achieves Natural England’s highest rating for its ecologically important habitats

The Windsor Estate, which includes Windsor Forest and The Great Park, has been awarded Natural England’s highest possible rating for the condition of its Sites of Special Scientific Interest* (SSSI). The ‘Favourable’ rating from Natural England now covers all SSSIs, (the designated conservation areas for ecologically important habitats), located across the Windsor Estate.

All of the SSSI locations across the Windsor Estate and Great Park are of exceptional nature conservation importance. They are home to one of the largest assemblages of ancient and veteran oak and beech trees anywhere in northern Europe, as well as home to significant ancient woodlands. These habitats also make it one of the best sites in Britain and Europe for rare fungi and ‘decaying wood’ invertebrates, including the very rare violet click beetle and several rare and notable species of moth.

Paul Sedgwick, Deputy Ranger of Windsor Great Park, said: “We are delighted that Windsor Forest and Great Park SSSI and SAC has received the highest possible rating from Natural England. Preserving and protecting such a large and precious landscape takes an extraordinary amount of dedication from many people and this is the culmination of a lot of hard work from past and present employees over the last 20 years. I would like to thank the entire team at Windsor Great Park who work tirelessly to ensure that our visitors can enjoy it now, and for generations to come alongside the wildlife that lives here.

“I would also like to thank partners Natural England and Ted Green, our Conservation Advisor, who have provided invaluable support and advice over many years.”

The award of Natural England’s highest rating is the result of several years of work by The Crown Estate’s team at Windsor to provide the optimal habitat for the ancient and veteran trees, rare insects and fungi. This includes diverting horse tracks to protect the roots of nearby ancient trees, planting shrubs and trees that provide nectar for insects, planting ‘successor’ trees near ancient ones to ensure the estate enjoys a long and healthy future,  mowing grass to different heights to provide shelter and nectar for insects, using native breeds of cattle (Longhorns) for grazing to improve the structure and diversity of the landscape, diverting mountain bike trails away from nesting birds, restoring woodland habitats and eradicating overgrown rhododendron thickets.

It also reflects improved analysis of data which has allowed The Crown Estate and Natural England to make more detailed assessments than ever before. Natural England recognised The Crown Estate’s proactivity in enabling research and trials of different habitat management techniques on the estate, and facilitating the SSSI as a demonstration site so that conservation experts can learn and share best practice.

Andrew Smith, Natural England Manager for the Thames area, said: “I am really pleased that all the hard work put into the Estate over the years has come to fruition, and that Windsor Forest and Great Park SSSI and SAC has earned Favourable condition status. This shows the value of commitment and great partnership working. I am also tremendously grateful for all of the input over the years by dedicated volunteers in recording the huge diversity of species found at this exceptional site. 

“We look forward to continued work with The Crown Estate to maintain, enhance and secure habitats for the future benefit of Windsor’s incredible ancient and veteran trees and the wildlife that depend on them.”

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