Directly north of Birch Wood lies the 'Roman Ridge', built between 450 and 600 AD to defend the Celtic kingdom of Elmet from the advancing Anglo-Saxons. The earliest record of the woodland itself dates from 1776 and it is also shown on an Ordnance Survey map dating from 1851. Although there is no documentary evidence showing that Birch Wood is an ancient woodland (more than 400 years old), this is strongly suggested by a number of other lines of evidence. The situation of the woodland, in the sometimes steep-sided valley of the Collier Brook, is typical of ancient woodland sites, as is its diverse ground flora, which includes a number of plants typical of ancient woodlands, such as Yellow Archangel and Wood Sorrel.
The woodland at the site is characterised by a mixture of mature Sessile Oak, Beech and maturing Sycamore. Additional habitats include a small marshland, and adjoining the eastern edge of the wood is an area of botanically rich grassland. Birch Wood forms part of the Warren Vale Local Nature Reserve. Both Pipistrelle and Brown Long-eared Bats have been recorded in the area, and birds include Sparrowhawk, Song Thrush and the summer visitors, Blackcap and Garden Warbler.
Being situated on the urban fringe, Birch Wood is well used by local people. A programme of woodland restoration and access improvement work is now taking place to restore the woodland to its former glory and to maximise its potential as a recreational and educational resource. The age range of trees in the woodland will be broadened by the selective thinning of mature trees in order to provide room for the natural regeneration of native species such as Oak, Birch and Hazel. Signs of neglect, such as litter and tipping, are being removed and controlled. In order to raise awareness of the history and natural history, recreational potential and management of the wood, a programme of educational and interpretative events is being run at the site. During 2002, the bridge at the centre of the site is to be developed as a piece of environmental art.
Other nearby Heritage Woodlands are: