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Resurrecting ghost landscapes at Burnham Beeches

(c) Dave Lamacraft

The ambition of linking nature-rich hotspots which have been isolated by urban development took a step closer to becoming a reality during 2021/22 thanks to extensive research carried out by Plantlife and our partners.

Working alongside the City of London Corporation and National Trust, we carried out a major survey of the ancient landscape around Burnham Beeches, which sits between Slough and Beaconsfield. The data gathered has been used to produce a vision for linking areas which have become isolated, and where rare species such as Starfruit used to thrive. This ambitious restoration project would be achieved by focusing on grazing, which is already a key element of the way Burnham Beeches is managed.

(c) Dave Lamacraft

The survey findings

Burnham Beeches has long been known for its wood pasture of ancient Beech pollards and the wildlife they support. This includes a rich assemblage of specialist ancient tree invertebrates and fungi and one particularly rare moss – the Knothole Yolk-moss – which thrives in rot holes and seepage tracks on old Beech trees. Burnham Beeches is also known as one of the only British sites for the Beech Marble Lichen, another ancient Beech specialist.

The extensive survey work carried out during the year aimed to enhance our existing knowledge of the species which call the landscape around Burnham Beeches their home. As well as flowering plants, mosses, liverworts and lichens, this research also extended to invertebrates, which is unusual for Plantlife.

The results showed nationally rare species such as Lemon Tart Lichen and the Windsor Weevil surviving previously undiscovered in and on ancient trees, which suggests Burnham Beeches was once part of an extensive patch of trees and heaths centred on Windsor.

Next steps

Together with our partners, work will now take place to engage with other key stakeholders and explore whether our vision for restoring a habitat where Starfruit, Knothole Yolk-moss, Lemon Tart Lichen and Windsor Weevil will flourish can be achieved. This will include looking at the natural capital of the envisioned landscape and exploring potential funding mechanisms with the aim of resurrecting a ghost landscape rich with diverse species.

Image credits: All images - Dave Lamacraft

Next project

Restoring our valuable grasslands

Read more