The Wood appears to have been part of the “wildwood” which covered much of England after the last Ice Age, and it was never cleared for agriculture. There are now various tree communities that have developed in response to both the geology and hundreds, possibly thousands, of years of woodland management.
Parts of the wood are predominantly hornbeam and hazel, parts are oak and parts are mainly ash, with birches, maples, wild cherries, sweet chestnuts and sycamores locally abundant.
Much of the Wood has been managed through coppicing: the harvesting of a crop of shoots from the cut stumps of trees. Virtually all broad-leaved trees can be managed this way, providing wood for fuel and other purposes such as fencing. Depending on the type of tree and the intended use of the wood, trees can be re-cut every 20 to 30 years and coppiced trees can far outlive un-coppiced trees.
Some trees, such as oaks, were not coppiced and were left to grow on, eventually providing timbers for large buildings. Nowadays the oaks are left to become the ancient trees of the future.
As well as providing a variety of coppice products, coppicing is important for wildlife. It allows light to penetrate to the woodland floor. This promotes the growth of woodland flowers and new trees from seed, and encourages insects and birds to colonise the areas.
Coppicing has resulted in the structure of the woodland we see today and it continues as part of the Wood’s management, giving a mosaic of habitats for the maximum variety of wildlife.
Successful coppicing depends on the new shoots being able to grow, but these shoots are attractive to the rabbits and muntjac deer that live in the Wood. In the past, the numbers of these would be controlled through hunting, but nowadays fences are needed around the coppice stools to protect the new growth.