The forest has a variety of wildlife. It was much larger, but it still is one of the largest remaining ancient woodlands in Britain. The Forestry Commission looks after about half of today's forest. Two-thirds of the forest is a SSSI (1,753.7 hectares), and a further fifth (549 hectares) is a National Nature Reserve. The Dowles Brook flows through the heart of the forest, and the A456 road also runs through the southern edge of the woodland.
It is one of the largest areas of semi-natural (partially unmanaged) woodland in the UK. Wildlife species to be found in the forest include hawfinch, fallow deer, dipper, common crossbill, pied flycatcher, redstart, and long-eared owl among many other woodland birds and plants. The small but colourful moth Oecophora bractella has one of its few English populations here, and does not seem to occur much farther northwards.