Parkland and veteran trees. Barnsley’s landscape is enriched by historic parklands established in the 17th to 19th centuries, with scattered, distinctive, sometimes veteran, trees punctuating open areas of grazed grassland.

Priority Habitat details

Parkland is a local priority habitat because of the value of veteran trees in grazed grassland and the wildlife species supported.

Urban parks with origins in the 19 century are also significant as habitats where they contain older trees and features.

The Local Priority Habitat is a form of the national priority habitat Wood Pasture and Parkland.

UK BAP priority habitats

Species supported by veteran trees and parkland habitats.

Bat species, making use of the crevices and hollow rot holes of veteran trees for roosting, include noctule, brown long-eared, Daubenton’s, Leisler’s and Natterer's bat, Other species may also be found foraging, including both forms of pipistrelle bat.

Other mammals found in parkland habitats include red and fallow deer, fox, badger and brown hare as well as mice, voles and shrews.

Bird species in parkland habitats include hole nesting lesser-spotted and green woodpeckers, as well as nuthatch, tree creeper, spotted flycatcher, song thrush, and hawfinch, (Examples from Rockley and Stainborough Park.)

Reptiles and amphibians include grass snake, frog and common toad.


Ctenophora pectinicornis, atelestes pulicarius, pachygaster atra, eudorylas fusculas, heline abdominalis and pyropterus nigroruber have all been identified in Stainborough Park.

Trees. A wide range of tree species occur in parklands. Locally oak, birch, ash, hawthorn and hazel are often present. Beech, sweet chestnut, sycamore and more exotic species have often been planted.

Veteran trees, wood pasture and parkland as habitat

The range of wildlife in parkland depends on a mosaic of habitats, grassland, woodland, hedgerows and scrub, as well as veteran trees; and on features such as lakes, ponds and streams.

However many species of fungi, lichen, mosses, invertebrates, birds and bats rely on veteran trees for their roosts, nests and food sources.

The plants that grow on the trees themselves (epiphytes) - lichens, mosses and liverworts - grow in well-lit areas on bark, trunks and branches.  Many species require open grown trees with spreading crowns and boughs and are often found in areas with rain tracks and wound seepages.

Fungi are critical in the ecology of almost all of the wildlife associated with veteran trees and some are themselves rare and restricted to only the oldest of trees. It is fungi that cause the decay and hollowing on which the other wildlife depends.

Dead, decayed or decaying wood is an essential component of parkland ecosystems; this includes heart rot, dead branches, stems and snags on living trees and fallen branches and stumps.  

Many different species of insects - especially beetles and flies - feed as larvae within the decaying wood and veteran trees support endangered, rare, dead wood specialists.

Some wildlife species depend on cavities, cracks, crevices, loose bark, and fissures. These include  bats which use these spaces for roosting.

Bird and mammal species often utilise adjacent habitats such as hedgerows, grasslands and woodlands and

Open areas are an essential part of the parkland habitat. Grassland with flowering plants produces the nectar and pollen for adult beetles and flies whose larvae develop in dead wood.

Grazing by domestic livestock or deer maintains the grassland around the characteristic veteran trees.

Unimproved grasslands are important for wildlife in their own right and the mosaic of habitats in parklands supports a wide variety of wildlife.

Factors causing decline of veteran trees and parkland habitat

• Conversion of parkland habitat to other land uses such as arable fields, secondary woodland or amenity use, or for development

• Lack of younger generations of trees leads to breaks in continuity of deadwood habitat and loss of specialised dependent species.

• Neglect, and loss of expertise of traditional tree management skills (eg pollarding) leads to trees collapsing or being felled.

• Loss of veteran trees through disease (eg. Dutch Elm disease, Oak die-back), physiological stress such as drought and storm damage, and competition for resources with surrounding younger trees.

• Removal of veteran trees and deadwood through perceptions of safety, tree hygiene and tidiness; for firewood, or through vandalism.

• Damage to trees and roots from soil compaction and erosion caused by trampling by livestock and through car parking.

• Changes to ground-water levels, resulting from abstraction, drainage, neighbouring development, roads, prolonged drought, climate change.

• Isolation and fragmentation of the remaining veteran trees and parkland sites in the landscape. (Many of the species dependent on old trees are unable to move between these sites due to poor powers of dispersal and the increasing distances they need to travel).

Good practice in management of veteran trees and parkland

If the wildlife that depends on veteran trees is to survive into the future, trees must be available to take their place and become veteran. New trees need to be planted and trees kept to mature.

Existing veteran trees should be conserved and protected using the best practice methods identified by Natural England, the Forestry Commission, Woodland Trust and others (see links).

Dead wood of all ages, both standing and fallen, should be retained. Trees that fall over should be kept if possible and may regrow.

The grassland around veteran trees in parkland requires managed grazing to maintain the diversity of plant species and other wildlife, and to control scrub that competes with the veteran trees. There need to be some areas of grassland with flowering plants.

Status and history

South Yorkshire Historic Environment Characterisation: describes Barnsley’s historic parklands.

Barnsley parklands were developed in the 17th to early 19th centuries; most of the larger parks in Barnsley replaced medieval deer parks. In the 19th century urban parks, like Locke Park, were developed.

English Heritage’s Register of  Historic Parks and Gardens includes grade 1 listed Stainborough Park and grade 2 listed Bretton, Cannon Hall, Wortley and Locke Park.


The late 20th century trend to maintain park landscapes as heritage sites, because of their public amenity value, has led to restoration programmes of park landscapes at Bretton Park and Wentworth Castle & Stainborough Park.

Legal protection

Some individual and groups of trees are protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs).

Some veteran trees are located within Conservation Areas where work on any tree must be subject to consultation with the local planning authority.

Individual trees may also have some protection if they contain bat roosts or hole nesting birds.

Listing in Historic England’s Register of Historic Parks and Gardens is a material consideration for planning applications and permitted development rights are reduced.

Local Wildlife Site status is also a consideration in applications for change of use or development..

Links for information and advice

Natural England: Veteran Trees: a guide to good management

Forestry Commission: Veteran trees

Woodland Trust: Ancient Tree Hunt

Treeworks: Surveying ancient trees

Buglife: Woodpasture and parklands

English Heritage: Conservation Management Plans

Our key objectives for parkland and veteran trees must be to:

Targets (under review)

Targets under review -comments welcome. Targets needed for review of extent, type and condition of parkland and veteran trees, and for records of populations and assemblages of species in these habitats.

What is being done?

Veteran tree surveys have been carried out in the parklands at Cannon Hall, Stainborough, and Wortley.

Restoration programmes of park landscapes have been carried out at Bretton Park and Wentworth Castle & Stainborough Park, including restoration of grazing, protection of veteran trees and woodland management.

Proposed actions


Landowners, including private estates, trusts, and Barnsley Council: follow best practice in managing parklands to ensure that their biodiversity, cultural, and amenity value is maintained.

Similarly protect and conserve veteran trees, wherever they are.

Natural England and English Heritage: give advice and provide grants for historic parklands.  

Barnsley Council as a planning authority: sets conditions in relevant planning applications to ensure that the biodiversity and cultural value of parklands are maintained and enhanced. Also issues Tree Preservation Orders and designates Conservation Areas which can protect parklands.

Voluntary groups and volunteers: help with parkland management and conservation.

Barnsley Council has identified the importance of the historic corridor of parklands from Bretton to Wharncliffe, to the west of the MI, in the core strategy of its Local Plan.

Local groups and volunteers: help with information about parklands and veteran trees and provide wildlife records to the Record Centre. The analysis of these records help with conservation. Sites can be suggested for designation as local wildlife sites and veteran trees for TPOs.

We would welcome your comments
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Historic parklands have important features that support wildlife such as lakes, ponds, gardens, grassland, orchards, and old built structures. But they are particularly notable for mature or veteran trees occurring as individuals or small groups of trees within grazed grassland. This is a form of ‘wood pasture’. More information on veteran trees is given on an additional page.

Surviving parkland in Barnsley is mainly in a corridor to the west of the M1 from Bretton to Wortley, including Cannon Hall and Stainborough.*

Map of historic parklands from Historic Environment Characterisation produced by South Yorkshire Archaeology Service. For more details:

* Other examples are Haigh Hall, Birthwaite Hall, Noblethorpe Hall, Burnt Wood Hall, Middlewood Park, and Worsbrough Park,

South Yorkshire Historic Environment Characterisation website:

Some parkland sites have been lost or damaged through development or open cast mining. Other parkland has been turned to uses such as arable fields, plantations and amenity land, however some parkland features such as veteran trees may have survived even there.

Local Wildlife Sites

with parkland habitat

22 Stainborough Park

48 Bretton Park

Other LWSs contain veteran trees, for example Rockley Woods, Hoyland Bank Wood.

Other parkland habitat sites that should be considered for LWS status include:

Cannon Hall parkland

Wortley Hall parkland

Barnsley Biodiversity Trust: Barnsley Biodiversity Action Plan. Last Updated January 2016