Burnham Beeches wood ants star in Sir David Attenborough’s new series
Wood ants in Burnham Beeches are the unlikely stars of the Woodland episode of Sir David Attenborough’s new series Wild Isles.
Broadcast last Sunday (19 March), the episode shows the ants defending themselves against predators, climbing trees to eat caterpillars, and collecting honey dew from aphids.
Narrating the documentary, Attenborough says “the presence of the ants is a sure sign of a healthy forest.”
Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and Commons Committee, Ben Murphy, said:
“It is fantastic to see Burnham Beeches wildlife celebrated by Sir David Attenborough, a national treasure.
“Across the UK, there has been a loss of habitat for wood ants. But in Burnham Beeches, the species is flourishing.
“The City Corporation makes a major financial investment in this ancient woodland every year.
“It has funded our wood pasture restoration work which has created such a successful habitat for a diverse range of species.”
When surveyed in 2020-21, there were over 500 wood ant nests in the ancient woodland.
Rangers in Burnham Beeches – which is managed by the City Corporation as a registered charity – are restoring areas that were once open woodland, called wood pasture. British white cattle and Exmoor ponies graze the land to prevent it becoming overgrown.
This restoration creates the perfect conditions for wood ants, which like to build nests in sunny glades.
They can protect trees by eating caterpillars, which eat their leaves. And rare species of beetle and spider live in the ants’ nests.
Burnham Beeches is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a National Nature Reserve, and a Special Area of Conservation.
The site is part of ‘The Commons’ which also include Stoke Common, Ashtead Common, West Wickham and Coulsdon Commons, Farthing Downs, Kenley Common, Riddlesdown and Spring Park.
The City Corporation protects over 11,000 acres of open space in London and south east England – including Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest – and over 200 smaller sites in the Square Mile, investing over £38m a year.
These sites, most of which are charitable trusts, are run at little or no cost to the communities that they serve. They remove around 16,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere a year, equivalent to 44% of the City Corporation’s annual carbon footprint.
Notes to editors
The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk