Hastings is blessed with many woodlands within and around the Borough that give the town a very green and welcoming appearance. Many of these woodlands are ancient, preserved woodlands and the largest woods have been given or will be given Local Nature Reserve status. Many of the woods contain gill woodland. The word gill comes from the Norse ‘gil’ meaning steep sided ravine and clearly describes the nature of these woodlands, epitomised by Old Roar Gill, a steep sided valley cut out of the sandstone bedrock by thousands of years of erosion by fresh water streams. Gill is commonly misspelt as ‘Ghyll’.
These gills remain frost free and humid throughout the year therefore providing a micro-climate that is very different from other more open dryer woodlands in south east England. Species that are only usually found in the milder and wetter areas of western Britain can be found in these gills. Also the coastal location of the gills in Hastings makes them even more special due to the climatic effect of the sea and are home to some species that are not found anywhere else in southern and eastern Britain.
Within Church Wood can be found the more open dryer type of woodland on the sandstone plateau in the centre of the wood which is sandwiched between two wetter gill type woodlands on either side. The diversity of woodland floor flora is therefore very high in this wood.