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23.05.2011 Woodlands survey report: owners of small woodlands a vital part of UK woodland management


A previously unsung group of private conservationists and woodland guardians is revealed

A new survey of owners of small woodlands has shown that they are a vital part of UK woodland management. The report from Woodlands.co.uk, which creates and sells small woodlands, shows in detail how these private owners…

Are passionate about conservation and wildlife.

  • Almost all (89%) say that their love of wildlife was an important factor in buying their wood.
  • Over the years it is estimated that Woodlands.co.uk owners are have planted more than 220,000 new trees, built more than 10,000 dead wood log piles (insect habitats), put up 3,800 nest boxes, dug 350 ponds and installed 350 bee hives.

Together are increasing access to the UK’s woodlands, visiting their wood frequently and taking family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues with them.

  • Owners see their woodlands as an important part of their family life and their visits to their woods are highly social
  • In the course of a year throughout the woods that Woodlands.co.uk has sold to date more than 175,000 visits are made to woodlands by owners, their families, friends and neighbours and members of the local community.
  • Some owners (14%) have invited local community groups into their woodland.
  • Owners visit their woods more than 60 times per year and it is a year-round pursuit.

Plan to keep ownership of their woods within the family for the next generation.

  • Not one of the owners who replied to the survey envisaged selling their wood in the foreseeable future.
  • Well over three-quarters (80%) planned to pass the wood on to future generations of their family.

The report highlighted the factors which were quite or very important in purchasing their woods. These were principally about having a place where they, their family and friends can relax in some solitude (90%), a love of wildlife (89%) and conservation (86%) and to have a source of wood fuel for their own use or sell to others (75%).

Angus Hanton from woodlands.co.uk says, “In today’s fast moving society it’s great to hear that there is a desire to gain a window on the outdoors - free from the many constraints of modern life. Being in a wood, with the sights, smells and sounds of nature, is a great way to get away from it all. These owners are building an emotional connection with their piece of woodland and conserving it for the benefit of us all.

“Gardeners often take inspiration from woodlands for wild and natural planting schemes, such as those seen at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. These woodland owners have gone one step further in safeguarding pieces of woodland across the UK - where they can enjoy an abundance of flora and fauna in its natural habitat.”

Around two thirds of owners also cited these further reasons as quite or very important factors in wanting to own a piece of woodland:

  • To learn woodland management (66%)
  • Opportunity to take physical exercise to keep fit (65%)
  • Bird watching (63%)
  • Encourage butterflies (62%)
  • Place for friends to visit (62%)

Interestingly the report showed that motives relating to financial gain have a much lower level of importance. Less than half (40%) say that the purchase of the wood as an investment was quite or very important and only 11% say that its purchase for tax purposes was important.

Whilst the woods are seen as a place to relax a great deal of time is spent managing and improving them.

  • More than three quarters of owners have planted new trees in their woods (78%) or are coppicing their woods (76%).
  • Over the years Woodlands.co.uk owners have planted more than 220,000 new trees.

There is clearly scope for small private woodland owners to be more fully involved in managing Britain’s woodlands. Angus Hanton from woodlands.co.uk says, “The Forestry Commission consultation earlier this year shed light on the UK’s innate passion for woodland. In this new report we uncover an army of unsung conservationists who together are safeguarding more than 12,000 acres of woodland for future generations. Taking large pieces of land into government or charity ownership is not the only way to conserve our woodlands; individuals can undoubtedly play their part too. ”

The research that Woodlands.co.uk has undertaken into woodland owners reveals the emotional depth of the relationship that owners have with their woods. These bonds manifest themselves in a number of ways.

  • Woodland owners take a long term view of ownership. The vast majority (80%) plan to pass their wood on to future generations; they see their personal ownership as only a short part in the long history of their wood and many want their children and grandchildren to become owners in turn, with the remaining fifth saying that they planned to sell when they were no longer able to actively look after the wood.
  • More than three-quarters (77%) of owners have children and a third (36%) have grandchildren. Parents see the woods as places where their children (even when they are adults) and grand-children can gain access to the outdoors and spend active time together.
  • They form strong relationships with the owners of neighbouring woods. Four out of five owners (82%) say that they have got to know owners of the neighbouring woods, a quarter (23%) work with neighbours on common tasks and a sixth (17%) have formed/take part in associations of local woodland owners.
  • For many there is a real interest in restoring woods to their native condition by replacing conifer with broadleaf trees. As well as the activities noted above, 56% of owners agreed that they are keen to replace conifers with broadleaf trees. As one owner said “(We want to) take out some Western Hemlock, that is the gloomiest bit of the wood and replace that with broadleaf trees.”

Ends

Further information

For more information, case studies of woodland owners or an interview with a Woodlands.co.uk spokesperson please contact Patricia Ockenden on 07941 369 810 or at [email protected]

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Notes to editors

Woodlands.co.uk is a family business which for the last twenty years has been creating and selling smaller woodlands so that other private individuals and families could have a wood of their own. They had observed a lot of large woodlands being neglected because there was no longer any economic incentive to manage them (this is still largely true today). They believe that people like them would care for their woods and would get a great deal of enjoyment from them. Since then, Woodlands.co.uk has created and sold more than 1,200 small woods all over Britain with the help and support of their enthusiastic local managers, who like them enjoy working independently and are passionate about woodlands.

Woodlands.co.uk commissioned this independent report to understand more about why private owners buy woods, the uses they make of the woods they purchase and the satisfaction that they and others gain from them and the impact that buyers of small woods have on their management. 149 woodland owners who are members of the Small Woodland Owners Group (SWOG) were questioned for the qualitative part of the research. Many but not all of them have purchased woods from Woodlands.co.uk since the company was established in 1988.

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