Fawkham is heavily wooded – over 22% of the Parish’s area is covered in woodland. This compares to 13% nationally and 12% in Kent. 

Ancient Woodland covers 13% of the Parish – these are woods which have existed continuously since at least 1600. This compares to 11% coverage within Sevenoaks District as a whole, and the UK average of only 2%.

There are several significant blocks of Ancient Woodland, including Churchdown Wood in the north of the Parish, Parkfield and Pennis Woods in the east, Saxten’s, Cage’s and Rogers Wood in the south, and Choaks Wood, Wilmay Copse and part of Horton Wood in the west. These are full of Bluebells flowering in the spring.

There are also several smaller blocks of Ancient Woodland, including narrow strips known as “shaws”. 

There are further areas of deciduous (but not Ancient) woodland and also many individual trees in fields, hedges and gardens, and associated with the golf courses.  

photo of a woodland showing a path through bluebells

The Woodlands Map shows all Fawkham’s woodlands. The names shown have been taken from the tithe map of 1831 (with the exception of Wilmay Copse which was more recently named). 

Residents of Fawkham value the woodlands within the Parish, and they were mentioned in the Village Survey of 2019 as one of the main benefits of living here. 

Please note that many of the woodlands are privately owned. Some of these have Public Rights of Way running through them, and so can be visited – please stick to the footpath when doing so. The map here shows all the PROWs in Fawkham: Public Rights of Way Map. The Woodland Trust owns Saxten’s and Cage’s Wood which can be freely accessed from Fawkham Green Road and Rogers Wood Lane, and also Wilmay Copse on Sun Hill. These woods both have many paths running through them.

You may have noticed a number of woods around Fawkham have had management work undertaken over the last few years. These include Saxten’s and Cage’s Wood and Wilmay Copse (both owned by the Woodland Trust), Churchdown Wood, Loaves Wood and Horton Wood (all privately owned). 

Various techniques can be used to manage woodland, and the main ones – coppicing, pollarding and thinning – are described below. 

Unfortunately, Ash die back is affecting many ash trees within the Parish. Landowners may undertake work to diseased trees which may pose a threat to the public using any public footpaths through the woodland.

Further information can be found below on:

  • Ancient Woodland
  • Fawkham’s Ancient Woodland
  • Fawkham’s Other Woodlands
  • Tree Preservation Orders
  • Ancient and Veteran Trees
  • Woodland Management


Ancient Woodland

Ancient woods have been around for many centuries – long enough to develop as ecosystems that are rich, complex and irreplaceable. A threshold date of 1600AD is used as this is when reliable maps became more widely produced and pre-dates the time when tree planting became common. 

They are a valuable natural asset important for:

  • wildlife (which include rare and threatened species) 
  • soils
  • carbon capture and storage
  • contributing to the seed bank and genetic diversity
  • recreation, health and wellbeing
  • cultural, historical and landscape value.

Many of Fawkham’s ancient woods have spectacular displays of spring flowers with carpets of Bluebells and bursts of Wood Anemone. These are both ancient woodland indicator species which hint at a long continuity of woodland cover. Other such indicator plants found in Fawkham’s woods include Dog’s Mercury, Yellow Archangel and Wood Spurge.

Photos below show (left to right) Bluebell and Wood Anemone photographed in a Fawkham Ancient Woodland   

close up photo of a bluebell photo of white flowers, the wood anemone

Ancient woodland includes:

  • ancient semi-natural woodland – mainly made up of trees and shrubs native to the site, usually arising from natural regeneration
  • plantations on ancient woodland sites – replanted with conifer or broadleaved trees that retain ancient woodland features, such as undisturbed soil, ground flora and fungi.

They have equal protection in the National Planning Policy Framework.


Fawkham’s Ancient Woodland

These are shown on the Woodlands Map below.

map of Fawkham Parish showing location and names of  blocks of woodland

12.73% of Fawkham Parish is covered with designated Ancient Woodland, compared to 11% of the Sevenoaks District as a whole (and the UK average of 2%).

Fawkham Parish contains many areas of Ancient Woodland. Many of these woods are named on the Tithe Map of the Parish, which dates from 1831:

    • To the east of Salts Farm (unnamed)
    • Churchdown Wood*
    • To the south of Hill Barn Farm (unnamed)
    • To the south of Scudders (unnamed)
    • A narrow strip along the western side of Three Gates Road (unnamed)
    • Parefield Wood, to the east of Three Gates Road
    • Grove Wood (remains of), to the east of Three Gates Road
    • Pennis Wood, to the east of Manor Lane ) old maps show that Pennis and Parkfield Woods
    • Parkfield Wood at Fawkham Manor          ) were both more extensive than today. It is possible that some of the hedges and avenues visible today were created by modifying earlier woodland vegetation 
    • Hatchfield Wood, east of Valley Road
    • Hopkins Spring Wood, to the east of Three Gates Road
    • Horton Wood*
    • Loaves Wood, north of Michaels Lane
    • Choaks Wood*, north of Sun Hill
    • Wilmay Copse*, south of Sun Hill (named since the Tithe Map)
    • Saxten’s and Cage’s Wood*
    • Roger’s Wood which is contiguous with that included in the LWS of Saxten’s Wood
    • Billet Wood, to the east of Fawkham Green Road, part of which is within the Parish
    • Gallows Wood, to the south of Rogers Wood Lane, part of which is within the Parish.

Several of these woods are designated as Local Wildlife Sites, shown in the list above with an *. 

What is a Local Wildlife Site? 

These are sites with ‘substantive nature conservation value’. Found on both public and private land, they are defined areas, identified and designated for their nature conservation value, based on important, distinctive and threatened habitats and species. Many sites will contain habitats and species that are priorities under the county or UK Biodiversity Action Plans (BAP).

They play a critical role in the conservation of the UK’s natural heritage by providing essential wildlife refuges in their own right and by acting as stepping stones, corridors and buffer zones to link and protect other site networks and the open spaces of our towns and countryside.

Within Kent the primary purposes of Local Wildlife Sites are:

  • To help secure the protection of nationally and locally threatened habitats and species, particularly where these are identified in the England and Kent Biodiversity Strategies.
  • To clearly identify sites of substantive nature conservation value that should be protected from damaging development.
  • To provide a framework for the targeting of management work, advice, grant aid and other activities in order to secure the effective conservation of the most important features of Kent’s biodiversity.
  • To provide a clearer understanding of the nature and importance of Kent’s wildlife habitats and the ways in which these change over time.

Each of Fawkham’s woodland Local Wildlife Sites is described in detail below.

Saxten’s and Cage’s Woods

This Local Wildlife Site is at the southern end of the Parish. The woods have a combined size of 22.96 hectares. They were acquired by the Woodland Trust in 1993, with financial assistance including a substantial amount from a local fundraising appeal following concern from Parishioners that the woods were under threat. It is a valued and well loved piece of the Kent landscape.

This site has Class II status for nature conservation and is particularly important for its dormice. 

photo showing wooden gate at the entrance to Saxten's Wood

The Woodland Trust describes these woods as follows:

“Saxten’s & Cage’s are predominately ancient woodland, with the exception of the eastern side which is secondary woodland planted by the Woodland Trust in 1993. Saxten’s & Cage’s were probably once managed as separate woods, but they are continuous with each other and have little obvious distinction between them, although a Public Right of Way defines the boundary between the two. 

“Much of Saxten’s & Cage’s was formerly managed for its hazel and ash coppice products with beech and oak standards, but active coppice management had ceased by the early 1950s. During the Second World War, almost 4.5ha of Cage’s Wood on the eastern edge was grubbed out and farmed. The area was returned back to woodland by the Woodland Trust in 1993 when it was re-planted with site native broadleaved trees.

“The upper storey canopy comprises mature ash, beech and oak standards with rare to occasional veteran ash and beech pollards. Some old mature cherries are also present and small- leaved lime occurs sporadically. Hazel coppice along with hawthorn is dominant in the shrub layer although holly and yew are also present. 

“Extensive drifts of bluebells, wood anemone and dogs mercury are spread throughout the wood especially where light levels are favourable. The ground flora throughout is dominated by bramble, with bluebell, wood anemone and wood spurge in the plateau areas. Where the soils are more calcareous, spurge laurel, stinking iris, and sweet woodruff occur. Primrose and moschatel are common on the damper rides, and dogs mercury dominates the lower ground. At least 22 ancient woodland indicator plant species are present. The wood holds a reasonably good bryophyte flora, including both acid-loving and lime-loving species.   

photo showing coppiced trees and bluebells

“The wood can best be described as a lowland beech-ash wood, which can be classified further into 3 National Vegetation Classification (NVC) stand types reflecting variations in soil types: W14 beech – bramble woodland, W12 beech -wood anemone woodland, and W8 ash – field maple – wood anemone woodland”.

The Woodland Trust has a management plan for Saxten’s & Cage’s (which also includes Wilmay Copse) which is formally reviewed every 5 years; the latest plan covers the period 2019-2024. In summary, it says that “areas of ancient and secondary woodland will mostly be left to develop under the influences of natural processes, except where intervention is required to address issues caused by pests and diseases and to control invasive non-native species. The over-mature coppice which has not been worked for over 60 years has largely become integrated into the high forest canopy and will not be actively coppiced in a rotational coppice regime but left to mature and collapse allowing natural regeneration and the high forest life cycle to take over. The loss of ash from the canopy caused by ash dieback will temporarily increase deadwood across the site and open up gaps in an otherwise closed canopy. Species such as hornbeam, oak, beech, ash and birch are likely to fill these gaps.

“Intervention to protect ancient woodland features such as woodland specialist ground flora, precursor and veteran trees, deadwood, and archaeological features may be required from time to time; particularly to control any incursion by invasive non-native species such as rhododendron and laurel. Currently invasive species are not causing a significant issue and only occur rarely in localised areas adjacent to property boundaries.The wide ride habitat established in Saxten’s and Cage’s which supports calcareous loving grassland and shrub species will continue to be managed on a short rotation (8-10 years) that will create a woodland edge habitat and protect and enhance the biodiversity of this habitat.

Whilst trees showing tolerance to ash dieback will be retained as a seed source to create future resistant generations of ash, ride-side management will remove dangerous ash trees. Some thinning of collapsing, over-mature coppice adjacent to paths may also be required. This work will widen rides, enhancing the biodiversity and visual interest of the woods”.

More information can be found here: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/woods/saxtens-cages/ 

Wilmay Copse and Choak’s Wood 

These woods are separated from each other by Sun Hill. 

Wilmay Copse is an ancient woodland of 4.71 hectares in the south-wast of the Parish. It is situated on a plateau overlooking the Fawkham Valley.

It is managed by the Woodland Trust, which acquired it in 1986, with public access via three entrances and a network of paths and rich flora throughout including spurge laurel, bluebells and dog mercury indicative of Ancient Woodland.     

The Woodland Trust describes Wilmay Copse as a small woodland very similar to Saxten’s & Cage’s, being ancient woodland and a mixture of two NVC classifications: W12 beech wood anemone woodland, and W8 ash – field maple wood anemone woodland. 

The wood supports over mature coppice of hornbeam with beech, ash, oak and field maple which has not been cut since the Second World War, and some very tall, mature cherry. The ancient beech coppice stools are especially large and contain interesting deadwood habitats. There is also a stand of almost pure hornbeam coppice which is resulting in heavy shading and restricting the development of the ground flora. Elsewhere bluebells, wood anemone and dogs mercury thrive.

A former paddock in the south-west was planted by the Woodland Trust in 1986 with a mixture of native broadleaved trees. Historically this paddock had been wooded and is shown as Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site on the Ancient Woodland Inventory.

Wilmay Copse is a very quiet site due to its small size and fairly remote location.

More information can be found here: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/woods/wilmay-copse/

Ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) is likely to have a significant impact on the population of ash trees within Wilmay Copse over the next decade.

Choak’s Wood is privately owned and is not publicly accessible. It is bounded on three sides by Sun Hill, Three Gates Road and Speedgate Hill, and is visible from these highways and from a PROW which runs across the field on its fourth boundary.

Wilmay Copse (top photo) and Chaoks’ Wood (bottom photo):

photo of a path through trees with bluebells either side

photo of tall trees with green leaves and bluebells on the floor

Churchdown Wood

This woodland is approximately 12 hectares in size, around half of which is ancient woodland and the remainder more recent beech plantation on an ancient woodland site. 

The site is privately owned (in at least two ownerships) although several Public Rights of Ways cross or adjoin the site, which are well-used by the public for walks. 

The landowner of the majority of the site began to implement a twenty year woodland management plan in 2022 by thinning the beech plantation and the ancient woodland, with the aim that it will form a mosaic of uneven aged and mixed species. The management plan states it will have a positive effect in terms of silviculture and biodiversity as well as improving resilience to climate change, pests and diseases.  

Numerous ancient woodland indicator species are present in this Local Wildlife Site, including bluebell, wood anemone and dog’s mercury. Several orchids can be found. One, White Helleborine, is a UK BAP species identified as being the most threatened and requiring conservation action, of which 116 plants were observed in 2021. In 2023, following thinning, vast quantities of this plant were observed in bloom, covering a far greater area than in 2021. At least one protected mammal species can be found.

photo showing a woodland path on a sunny day

Horton Wood

This is a large area of ancient woodland of 69.75 hectares, and only a small part of it is within the Parish. The wood forms much of the western boundary of the Parish. 

This woodland is privately owned and the part within Fawkham is not publicly accessible (a byway runs through another part); it is bounded by Three Gates Road and Mussenden Lane within the Parish.

Horton Wood is a Local Wildlife Site and is mostly hornbeam, with many ancient woodland indicator plants. Over twenty-eight ancient woodland vascular plant indicator species have been recorded.  

At least one protected mammal species can be found and at least two red list birds have been observed. At least forty-two species of bryophytes are recorded, plus common fungi and epiphytes.

photo showing a woodland in spring


Other Woodland

Fawkham Parish contains several further areas of woodland, in addition to the Ancient Woodland, as can be seen on the Woodlands Map

Some of this woodland is contiguous with Ancient Woodland, some appears on the 1831 tithe map and so is at least nearly two hundred years old, and some is relatively recently planted. 

In total, including Ancient Woodland, 22.3% of Fawkham Parish is covered by woods. This compares to 13% nationally and 12% in Kent. 

Some are lowland mixed deciduous and Yew which is included as a priority habitat in the Kent Nature Partnership Biodiversity Strategy 2020-2045, in which they are described as “particularly distinctive in Kent” which “is likely to be particularly vulnerable to the projected changes in rainfall and temperature in the south east of England”.

The woodland to the east of Cross House is a larch conifer wood understood to have been planted in the 1950s.

To the east of Fawkham Green on the higher valley sides lies Shortledge Wood.

Areas of woodland occur as part of both Redlibbets golf course and Corinthian golf course, with some parts being relicts of Pennis Wood, an ancient woodland. 

Fawkham Primary School owns four hectares of woodland adjacent to the school site, some of which is used as a resource by the school for forest school classes. This is contiguous with Parefield Wood to the north-west, but not all of the woodland appears on the 1831 tithe map. It includes an ancient yew tree.   

Ancient Yew tree in Fawkham Primary’s Woodland:

photo showing an old yew tree


Fawkham’s Tree Preservation Orders

A Tree Preservation Order is an order made by a local planning authority (Sevenoaks DC in our case) to protect specific trees, groups of trees or woodlands in the interests of amenity.

Five Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) have been made within the Parish, covering 3.41% of the area. 

The largest TPO covers an extensive area of woodland around Fawkham Manor which includes Parkfield Wood and Hatchfield Wood, both Ancient Woodland (labelled TPO4 on the Woodland Map) and also a further area of woodland at The Spinney (TPO3). Separated by Manor Lane from this is the remaining area of the Ancient Woodland Pennis Wood (covered by TPO2). A naturist club has been operating within this Ancient Woodland for over 50 years, causing some harm through clearance for buildings, a swimming pool and hardstanding.

The other TPOs cover a small area of Ancient Woodland, mostly hornbeam, beech and hazel, to the south of the listed building Scudders on Valley Road, and specified trees within the curtilage of the The Cedars on Speedgate Hill, which include flowering cherries.

The areas of TPOs are also shown on the Woodlands Map.


Ancient and veteran trees

Ancient and veteran trees can be individual trees or groups of trees within wood pastures, historic parkland, hedgerows, orchards, parks or other areas. They are often found outside ancient woodlands. Like Ancient Woodland, they are also irreplaceable habitats.

Ancient trees

An ancient tree is exceptionally valuable. Very few trees of any species become ancient. Attributes can include its:

  • great age
  • size
  • condition
  • biodiversity value as a result of significant wood decay and the habitat created from the ageing process
  • cultural and heritage value

Veteran trees

A veteran tree may not be very old, but it has significant decay features, such as branch death and hollowing. These features contribute to its exceptional biodiversity, cultural and heritage value.

The age at which a tree becomes ancient or veteran will vary by species because each species ages at a different rate.

Numerous ancient and veteran trees have been identified within Saxten’s and Cage’s Woods and Wilmay Copse (managed by the Woodland Trust); only two others have (so far) been identified elsewhere in the Parish. They can all be found on the Woodlands Trust Ancient Tree Inventory: https://ati.woodlandtrust.org.uk.

A project to identify further ancient and veteran trees within the Parish is planned – if you would like to get involved in this project, please email Fawkhampc@gmail.com.


Types of Woodland Management 

The most important part of restoring ancient woodland, or indeed other woodland, is the slow correction of light levels by gradually thinning the canopy and allowing more light to reach the woodland floor. Rapid increases in light could shock any remaining woodland plants and encourage growth of brambles and bracken which can slow down the process. Carefully increasing the light levels allows surviving plants, trees and fungi to adapt slowly, meaning restoration is much more likely to be successful.

You may have noticed a number of woods around Fawkham have had work undertaken over the last few years. These include Saxten’s and Cage’s Wood and Wilmay Copse (both owned by the Woodland Trust), Churchdown Wood, Loaves Wood and Horton Wood (all privately owned). 

Various techniques can be used to manage woodland, and the main ones – coppicing, pollarding and thinning – are described below. 

Sadly, ash die back is affecting many ash trees within the Parish. Landowners may also undertake work to diseased trees which may pose a threat to the public using any public footpaths through the woodland.

What is ash dieback?

Ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) is a fungus which originated in Asia. It doesn’t cause much damage on its native hosts, however, its introduction to Europe about 30 years ago has devastated the European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) because our native ash species has no natural defence against it. Ash dieback was first identified in Kent and ash trees are common in the local area – hence its appearance in village names such as Ash and New Ash Green.


Coppicing is a traditional woodland management technique that was once used to ensure a regular supply of timber and firewood. Today, it is often used to create a range of habitats for plants and wildlife – dramatically increasing the diversity of species that thrive in these areas.

What is coppicing?

Coppicing is a traditional woodland management technique that dates back to the Stone Age. It involves felling trees at their base to create a ‘stool’ where new shoots will grow.

You can recognise a coppiced tree by the many thin trunks or ‘poles’ at its base. Most tree species can be coppiced but the best suited of our native trees are hazel, sweet chestnut, ash and lime.

What’s it for?

Coppicing was originally used to ensure a regular source of firewood and timber. Traditionally, the long straight poles produced by coppicing would have been used for fencing, building and in the garden as bean poles.

These days, coppicing is primarily a way of improving the health and biodiversity of a woodland area by opening it up to sunlight and allowing a wider range of plants to flourish.

How coppicing helps wildlife

Trees naturally retrench – shedding their branches to extend their lifespan – and coppicing can be an excellent way of simulating this to increase the lifespan of the tree.

Coppicing also mimics a natural process where large mature trees fall due to old age or strong winds, allowing light to reach the woodland floor and giving other plant species the opportunity to thrive. This can start a chain of events that hugely increases the range of plants and wildlife in a woodland area.

An explosion of life

After lying dormant and deprived of sunshine, ground plants such as bluebells, wood anemones and marsh marigolds burst into bloom. After a few years, brambles and climbing plants such as honeysuckle take over. Many of these species are food sources for butterflies and other insects, which in turn provide food for birds, bats and other mammals.

A range of habitats

While waiting for brambles to grow, the waste branches from coppicing – known as the brash – can be chipped into mulch or stacked to create habitat piles. These provide a good substitute for bramble thicket and attract nesting birds. Eventually, the overstorey – the taller tree species – outgrows the bramble thicket once more, blocking out its light. The brambles die off and the wood becomes more open again.

With a coppice in full rotation, there will be a range of habitats, increasing the biodiversity of the wood. 

Rare species

By creating and maintaining this range of habitats, coppicing can help to provide a home for endangered or declining species. Dormice in particular depend on the diverse type of woodland created by coppicing, which results in a dense understorey – the layer of vegetation below the main canopy. Dormice are naturally arboreal, or ‘tree-living’, and the understorey provides them not just with food and shelter but also a safe way to travel through woodland without setting foot on the ground.


What is pollarding?

Pollarding is the regular cutting of upper branches to encourage regrowth of dense foliage at the top of the tree. The cut branches can be used for firewood, building materials and other coppice products. Pollarded branches were traditionally used for animal fodder. Opening up the canopy in this way increases woodland light levels and benefits ground flora while making it more productive for grazing.

Which species can be pollarded?

Willow, ash, beech, hornbeam, lime and holly are traditionally pollarded for tree fodder, but most native trees can be pollarded.


What is thinning?

Thinning is the removal of some trees or parts of trees within woodland. As the trees reach 10-15 years old, they begin to compete for space, light and nutrients and growth starts to slow. Thinning makes sure that the best trees grow at the fastest rate, allowing a more diverse woodland structure and helping to futureproof the landscape.

Which species can be thinned?

Most native broadleaf trees can be thinned. Conifer species can also be gradually thinned out of plantation on ancient woodland sites, slowly increasing light levels and encouraging sensitive, native species to naturally regenerate.

Felling licences

Thinning often requires a felling licence, available from the Forestry Commission. If more than 5 cubic meters of timber – which would create a stack of timber about t he size of a small car – is to be felled within a calendar quarter, then a felling licence will need to be applied for. 

More information on tree felling can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/64b54e2d0ea2cb000d15e3e5/FC_Tree_Felling_4_July_23_WEB.pdf


Further information, including the sources of the details above, are contained within the Biodiversity Report, March 2024, prepared for the Neighbourhood Plan.

Guide to Ancient Woodland Indicator Plants – the Field Studies Council 

The Wildlife Trusts: Protected areas (wildlifetrusts.org.uk)

Local Wildlife Sites in Kent: Criteria for Selection and Delineation, August 2015. Kent Wildlife Trust










Kent Habitat Survey 2012