Barnsley Biodiversity Trust: Barnsley Biodiversity Action Plan. Last Updated February 2018

Wet woodland.  A jungle of deadwood and new growth from toppled trunks in waterlogged ground, ‘Willow Carr’ is an impressive extreme form of Wet Woodland. Wet and waterlogged woods provide important habitats for biodiversity with an abundance of lichens, mosses, sedges, rushes and ferns and large numbers of invertebrates which support amphibians, mammals and birds. Planting trees to provide woodland can also help in flood management.

Wet woodland is well represented in Barnsley including 18 areas of Willow Carr with those near Worsbrough Reservoir, Elsecar Reservoir, and Gunthwaite Dam the best examples.

It occurs on poorly drained, wet or seasonally wet soils, usually with Alder, Birch and Willows as the main tree species, but sometimes including trees like Ash where it is a little drier.

Wet woodland is found along streams and hill-side flushes, and on floodplains, replacing fens, mires, swamps and bogs, often in a patchwork with them. It can be found within other forms of woodland and the boundaries may alter as conditions change.

There are often large amounts of deadwood, and the wet conditions provide specialised habitats not found in dry woodland types.

The high humidity supports rich arrays of mosses, lichens and ferns; Marsh Marigold, Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, and Yellow Flag may be found alongside sedges, rushes, and reeds.

Harvest Mouse nests may be found in Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris) and Wet Woodland provides cover and breeding sites for more mammals, such as Otter, Water Vole, and bats such as Noctule.

Barnsley’s scrubby wet woodland provides a stronghold for Willow Tit, which excavates nest holes in rotten wood;  Siskin and Lesser Redpoll feed on alder catkins and birch seed; and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker frequents these wet woods.

Local Priority Habitat details

Wet woodland is a local priority habitat because of its national status, the plants, animals and birds it supports, and the opportunity for its conservation in Barnsley.


Wet woodland is a national priority habitat. UK BAP priority habitats

It is classed as Broadleaf Woodland or Scrub in Phase 1 habitat surveys.

Wet Woodland in Barnsley includes National Vegetation Classification categories:

W2 Willow-Birch carr

W4 Birch-Purple Hairgrass

W5 Alder-Sedge woodland

W6 Alder-Nettle woodland

W7 Alder-Ash woodland.

W6a is a frequent category for willow carr with Crack Willow together with Grey Willow and Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris).

Long established wet woodlands are particularly rich in wildlife but more recently established wet woodlands are also valuable.

The best examples of the local priority habitat are:


Wet woodland is well represented in Barnsley with 67 streamside areas of Alder or Willow, 18 areas of Willow Carr with those near Worsbrough and Elsecar Reservoirs, and Gunthwaite Dam, the best examples, ten wet woodland areas within woods, and one of scattered Willow.


National policies have a presumption against clearance of semi-natural woodland for other land uses.

Natural England has issued Standing Advice on protecting ancient woodland from development, on the basis that ancient woodland is irreplaceable.

Thinning or clearance of woodland including Wet Woodland requires a felling licence from the Forestry Commission. For clearance this will stipulate the type and level of restocking.

There are currently no woodland SSSIs in Barnsley.

Wet Woodland in Local Wildlife Sites have a presumption against permission for change of use.

Individual or groups of trees may be protected by Tree Preservation Orders.

Felling and woodland management where protected species are present may commit offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Protected species include all breeding birds and all species of bats. Licences may be needed from Natural England.

Links for Information and Advice

Natural England Standing Advice Forestry Commission:Practice Guide

Buglife: Managing wet woodland

Local Wildlife Sites

Some 28 wet woodlands are included in Local Wildlife Sites. The following Local Wildlife Sites include willow carr:

11 Gunthwaite Dam, Clough Wood

24 Worsbrough Reservoir

46 Elsecar Reservoir

48 Bretton Park,

23 Rockley Woods

26 Cliffe Wood,

25 Barnsley Canal at Wilthorpe,

40 Forge & Tin Mill Rocher,

Areas where there are sites that might be considered for Local Wildlife Site designation for the Wet Woodland priority habitat include: the River Dove north of Wombwell, Worsbrough Dale, Hermit Hill, River Don south of Thurgoland, River Don at Oxspring and Berry Moor, as well as Edderthorpe, New Park Spring, north-west of Dearne Valley Country Park, and in Standhill wood.

Local wildlife sites may be designated for their wet woodland ≥0.25ha with National Vegetation Classifications: W4, W5, W6 and W7.

They may also be selected for being ancient woodland, having a good range of ancient woodland indicator or other notable plants, or supporting good populations of species of conservation importance eg bats, birds, invertebrates

Species supported by woodland

Mammals found in wet woodland habitats include Otter, Water Vole, Harvest Mouse and Bats such as Noctule and Soprano pipistrelle.

Bird species. Woodland shelters a range of birds feeding on flies and other invertebrates. Wet woodland is particularly notable for Willow Tit, Reed Bunting and Lesser spotted woodpecker.

Lesser Redpoll and Siskin.

Reptiles and amphibians. Wet woodland supports Grass Snake, Common Toad and Great Crested Newt


Wet woodland supports a wide range of insects and other invertebrates. Examples: From Worsbrough willow carr: Meligramma guttatum, scarce hoverfly

From: Gunthwaite Dam: Bohemannia quadrimaculella A very local and rare micro-moth, found in alder carr

More examples available.


Although few plants depend on wet woodland, many species thrive there including Marsh Marigold, Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, Yellow Flag Iris, ferns, sedges, rushes, reeds, mosses and liverworts.

Wet Woodland habitat features

Wet Woodlands are important for wildlife. Different species use one or more of the Wet Woodland features for food or foraging, nesting, roosting, shelter and a refuge from predators.

A full range of wildlife species supported by Wet Woodland requires structural diversity with open wet soil, sometimes water, leaf litter, high humidity, older living trees and abundant dead wood. A mosaic of vegetation adds to the range of species supported.

Dead, decayed or decaying wood is an essential component of Wet Woodland ecosystems; this includes standing trees, dead branches, snags on living trees and fallen branches and stumps.

Humid leaf litter and decaying wood support a great range of invertebrate species. Insects often require specific species of tree, shrub and ground cover as larval food plants.


Landowners, including Barnsley Council, private estates, trusts, and individuals: follow best practice in managing their Wet Woodlands for wildlife; take up opportunities to restore or create Wet Woodlands where this does not damage other habitats.  

Natural England: administers countryside stewardship grant schemes for woodland creation or improvement, tree health support, or for preparing a woodland management plan.

Forestry Commission:licenses felling and approves woodland management plans; provides guidelines and sets conditions to protect biodiversity.

Woodland Trust: offers advice.

The Environment Agency has identified areas in which new woodland creation would reduce flood risk.

Barnsley Council as planning authority: sets conditions in relevant planning applications to ensure that the biodiversity value of woodlands are maintained and enhanced; issues Tree Preservation Orders where appropriate.

Voluntary groups and volunteers: help with woodland management and planting; help with information about the condition of woodlands and provide records of the wildlife in them.

Key objectives for biodiversity in Wet Woodland

A balance will need to be struck between the benefits of successional Wet Woodland and the benefits of retaining other habitats such a Reedbed and other forms of Swamp and Mire.

Opportunities should be identified to extend, enhance and link local priority habitats and provide corridors or steps between them. Although sites over 0.5ha are a priority, smaller sites that may form stepping stones between sites should also be considered important.

Marking progress

Causes of loss or decline of wet woodlands

Good management practice:

Wet woodlands are well-suited to a low-intervention approach. Positive conservation management over time includes:

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What is being done

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