Over half of the total land area managed by the Steyning Downland Scheme is secondary woodland, meaning woodland which has grown up on land once used for farming or another land use. Most of this grows on the steep scarp slope known locally as the Horseshoe Woods. Aerial photographs taken in 1947 show this area was scrubby grassland at that time, meaning most of our woods are less than 80 years old:
We also have two small areas of ancient woodland which is woodland which is believed to have had continuous tree cover since at least 1600 AD. These are on the steep slope at the top of the Rifle Range (around the Targets area) and the wooded ghyll at the source of the Mill Stream:
Thanks to a huge amount of help from local ecologist Petra Billings and the SDS Conservation Sub-group, we have produced a woodland management plan for all our woodland, which maximises its nature conservation potential. You can read the plan and associated documents via this link.
A large proportion of the trees in our woodland are Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and since 2017 we have noticed an increasing proportion of these trees suffering from Ash Dieback, a disease which as already devastated Ash trees in continental Europe. Diseased trees are very prone to suddenly falling and in winter 2018/19 we began extensive clearance of infected Ash trees along our Public Rights of way and informal paths, working with local contractors, the South Downs National Park Authority and Wiston Estate foresters.