Habitats are generally richer if they can be left to develop
naturally. This may not be possible for a number of reasons,
for example, there may be no suitable adjacent areas from
which natural seeding can occur, or it may not be acceptable
to wait 150 years for a natural woodland to develop! See natural
A very slow developer, this meadow ant colony is about 60 years
The vegetation and overall richness of wildlife will develop
much more slowly in dry habitats than in wetland habitats.
A limestone daleside planted with ash and hazel trees may,
in landscape terms, 30 years afterwards start to look like
a woodland. At that stage of it’s development is still
only a collection of trees and it will take much longer, perhaps
another 70 years for the soil structures and the plants of
the woodland floor to develop to support the wildlife of established
woodlands. A planted reed-bed or marsh will on the other hand
after five years be mature enough to support a good range of
wetland invertebrates and birds and will indeed need active
management to prevent it’s rapid invasion by willow and
(Above) Slow developer, this three year
old tree planting scheme is hardly noticeable. (Right) Fast
developer, tree growth will rapidly invade marsh habitats.
Very fast developer, these reeds were planted
five months earlier.
Where necessary nature can be assisted to get a foothold by
the planting and sowing of species appropriate to the habitat
and the area: the planting of tree saplings and wetland plants
are obvious ways; seeds and bulbs of woodland flowers can be
sown under planted trees after about ten years when thinning
has occurred; soils can be mixed with quarry stone and sown
with limestone flower seeds to help the ‘greening’ of
banks and spoil tips. To create a natural balance of plants
the soils need to be poor and low in nutrients to avoid the
rapid growth of coarse rank vegetation.