Working Together – A New Forestry Skills Plan for England and Wales

News Release – Forestry Skills Plan for England and Wales

Smallwoods, along with nearly thirty forestry employers, associations and educational providers are proud to have pledged to work together to attract the very best of young and new talent into the sector.

This is part of a 5 year plan, published on 6th February, that aims to increase numbers of new entrants and improve the skills of the current workforce so that the growing forestry industry can reach its full potential.

The Forestry Skills Plan has four themes: talent attraction, skills and technical knowledge, education provision and employer support. The themes have been split into separate action plans that partners will develop and deliver over coming years.

The Forestry Skills Forum believes that industry bodies can achieve more by collaboration than working in isolation, and the plan will facilitate the long term, coordinated, targeted approach to tackling skills issues. Forum members are committed to using the plan to prioritise activity, work together efficiently and take control of the skills agenda in order to develop a skilled forestry workforce for the future.

To download the plan or find out more about the Forestry Skills Forum see:




Tackling Deer Population Issues

Smallwoods Deer Awareness Training Event in Conjunction with The Deer Initiative

 Deer are a beautiful component of the British countryside, our largest land mammal and valuable component of natural capital. They are elusive, often shy but able to voraciously devour the very habitats we hold so dear. 

Deer have long been responsible for the local decline of key flora and fauna by simplifying woodland structures reducing the feeding, breeding and resting places for birds, mammals and invertebrates. 

For the woodland or land manager with a commercial focus, deer can have catastrophic effects causing tens of thousands of pounds of damage and being incredibly challenging to mitigate against. 

Our Deer Awareness- An introduction to impact assessment course is suitable for woodland owners and managers who need to undertake some form of deer management. The course will provide details on how to gather and assess the level of impact and how to implement and monitor control measures. 

This course is undertaken in partnership with the Deer initiative and the course tutor is David Jam CEO of the Deer Initiative. David has spent his career in woodland management and commercial forestry and has managed deer on a national scale for the past 15 years. 

This course will be especially beneficial for progressive woodland owners with an interest in both enhancing biodiversity and productivity of their woodlands. If your objectives are a sustainable wildlife habitat or quality timber for future generations you need to consider deer in the management of your woodlands. While deer are both a stunning visual asset and valuable element of natural capital they can conversely be severely damaging to woodland structure and productivity. 

This course is designed to give woodland owners and managers a better understanding of living and dealing with deer in your woodlands 

Participants will; 

  • Gain a understanding of UK deer species, biology and geographical distribution 
  • Learn to recognise and identify deer sign and Impacts 
  • Gain an understanding of legislation; owners and managers responsibilities. 
  • Understand how to plan woodland management with deer in mind 
  • Gain an insight into physical protection and non-lethal management options 
  • Understand lethal deer management principles and how it is undertaken 
  • Understand the value of venison as a by-product of management.C 

David Jam,
CEO of The Deer Initiative



SWA Response to the Domestic Burning Consultation

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to this important consultation, which is of great significance to Small Woods members, most if not all of whom source and use wood fuel for their own use and many also supply it to others.

Overall, we would want to stress the major positive role that local woodfuel supply has in promoting sustainable woodland management and in rural economies and livelihoods. The development of local woodfuel markets has led to a significant improvement in woodland management, as the income it has provided and the enterprises it has supported has led to an increase in resources for and skills available to undertake sensitive woodland management. Not only businesses, but also significant conservation bodies across the UK are funded in part through woodfuel supply, for example Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. It is critical that as this regulation is developed that Defra do have the unintended consequence of stifling this really important sector by introducing regulations, licencing and charges that will make it impossible for small suppliers and producers to operate. We would be happy to assist Defra in the further development of this legislation.

Income from wood fuel is often invested back into the sustainable management of our native woodlands. And the ability to sell wood fuel relatively easily to local markets is part of a cycle of sustainable market that is benefiting biodiversity and local economies. Better managed woodlands are better able to facilitate improved health and well being benefits. The vast majority of small woodfuel producers exclusively serve local markets and the link between the increased demand for wood fuel and sustainable woodland management should be more fully acknowledged.

We would for example challenge the rather simplistic infographic on Page 5 of the consultation document as simply being misleading. The infographic simply estimates the PM2.5s at the point of burning, and not the whole supply chain, which for generated electricity and for gas are also dirty. The supply chains on which gas and electricity depend, involve transporting crude oil and gas long distances by sea in diesel burning tankers, which themselves play a significant role in polluting fragile marine environments. The information presented directly understates the advantages of stimulating short supply chains for well seasoned woodfuel and says nothing of its positive role in the woodland management cycle.

Local woodfuel is one of the few examples of a growing local market, where Britain is becoming increasingly self-sufficient. In the light of current events, we would not want to see systems that led to an increase in imported wood fuel just to meet the needs of accreditation or to fill the gap left by small producers pushed out of the market. For example, the small woodland sector is not well served currently by the accreditation bodies, due to the cost and complexity of accreditation. Currently, Small Woods is working with FSC and others to help address this deficiency, in order to develop an appropriate standard for small woodlands, but there is no guarantee when this will emerge, or even if it will emerge at all.

We also work closely with the woodfuel sector more broadly and have good working relationships with organisations such as HETAS, Woodsure and Grown in Britain. SWA have been meeting members and owners at rural shows and wood fairs around the country this year and it is clear this is an area of concern for many small producers and we have encouraged participation in the consultation. However, we would assess that there is universal agreement that burning seasoned wood below 20% is the right approach and we have been advocating this for some time, as the article in our Summer magazine demonstrates.

Consumer awareness of the issue is low and there should be minimum requirements for point of sale information, as well as improved information online. For example, it is very hard to find out information about the location of Smoke Control Areas, whereas previous smokeless zones were well known and well publicised.

Notwithstanding, the Small Woods Association is very much in support of the overall direction of the policy initiative and wholeheartedly supports the objectives to:

• Legislate to prohibit the sale of the most polluting fuels.
• Ensure only the cleanest stoves are available for sale by 2022.
• Update outmoded legislation on Smoke Control Areas to bring these into the 21st century with more flexible, proportionate enforcement powers for local government.
• Work with industry to identify an appropriate test standard for new solid fuels entering the market.
• Ensure that consumers understand what they can do to reduce their impact from emissions from domestic burning

Small Woods Association


Movement restrictions introduced to protect against tree pest in Kent

 New measures have just been introduced yesterday (16 January) to protect the country against the tree pest known as the larger eight-toothed spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus), which was discovered in Kent in December 2018. 

This beetle is considered a serious pest on spruce in Europe and has recently been found in the wider environment in England as part of routine plant health surveillance activity.

Legislation is being laid in Parliament that will restrict the movement of all susceptible material, including trees and wood with bark, within 50km of the outbreak sites where Ips typographus was found. 

This legislation is a necessary precaution to prevent the spread of the pest further afield and will remain in place until further notice, but will be kept under review. 

The exact boundaries of the restricted area and details of the materials under restriction will be available on the Forestry Commission website. 

Industry are also urged to remain vigilant for signs of the pest and to report any suspicions to the Forestry Commission. 

Nicola Spence, the UK Chief Plant Health Officer, said:

‘The eight-toothed spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus) poses no threat to human health, but it can be a serious pest to the spruce tree species and the forestry industry.

That is why we are taking robust action through this new legislation and its restriction of movement for spruce trees in a 50km area around the outbreak.

I encourage anyone who suspects a sighting of the bark beetle to report these to the Forestry Commission online through Tree Alert.’

Please report any suspected cases HERE:


BIFoR/Small Woods PhD researcher update

A little update on what, Ben Howard, BIFoR/Small Woods PhD researcher is up to.

 Here we find him sizing up one of the woodland streams under consideration for study as part of the joint study into the use of coppice material in river restoration.

Ben is looking at the Carbon sequestration and Denitrification effects of using coppice material in planned green engineering in river restoration. We will hope for instance to gain a better understanding of the effects of using coppice material rather than simply dropping or leaving fallen trees into water courses to slow the flow and improve water quality.

The work has the potential to provide additional roles for coppice products which address current problems, including those highlighted in today’s announcements regarding the government’s clean air strategy


Updated Information on Ash Dieback

The future of our ash trees is very uncertain, it has been estimated that, the majority of ash trees in UK woodlands infected with the ash dieback disease (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus fungus) will decline and die in the next 10 to 15 years. This will have a monumental impact on our landscapes and woodlands and may bring with it a decline in the biodiversity of many species that are largely dependent on Ash.

For those who are involved in the management of UK woodlands, there has been mixed advice, uncertainty and lack of clarity on what to do and how to act and research is regularly being changed and updated as scientists are finding out more about the disease.

The advice of what to do when faced with Ash Dieback has now been updated in a Forestry Commission document for any of those responsible for the management of Ash but unsure of how to deal with impacts in woodlands you own, manage or are involved in.

we strongly recommend that all owners of woodland containing ash prepare or amend management plans to describe how this species will be managed, including giving due consideration to which alternative tree species might be used for restocking where required’ 

Management choices may vary slightly depending on the individual’s management objectives i.e. timber production or biodiversity, and this document suggests possible strategies for each.

So, whilst the future of our Ash species seems dire, there remains some hope. It is possible that, by retaining trees with low levels of damage i.e. minimal crown damage and no root collar lesions, some tolerant regeneration may result.

‘the percentage of potentially tolerant trees is likely to be very low but with careful management these could regenerate, and the species could continue to exist at low levels in mixed stands. Encouraging multiple opportunities for regeneration (through a larger number of smaller interventions for example) will increase genetic “churn” and may result in more chances of tolerant trees emerging.’ 

Find out more information here:


Small Woods response to National Park and AONB Landscape Review

1. Small Woodland Objectives for National Parks

The woodland perspective is one that should be prominent within the National Park review. Woodlands are an integral part of our finest landscapes. From the sessile oak woods of the Lake District to the Beech Hangers of the South Downs, it is trees and woodlands that frame our most iconic views. Woodlands are integral to the sense of place of our protected landscapes, however, their protection is disjointed and inconsistent.

For example, whilst National Park and AONB Management Plans are consistent in their recognition of the landscape importance of their woodlands, the implementation can often work against the rhetoric. Woodlands are dynamic entities and the maintenance of their many values and indeed their place in the landscape requires the conditions to be right for their sustainable management. Yet our members often report opposition from NP and AONB executives to their efforts in pursuit of sustainable management.

There is evidence that the Sandford Principles are not being adhered to with respect to access in woodlands, or that they are being too zealously or blindly applied, leading to unmanaged and under-managed woodlands, with consequently declining environmental, social and economic value. For example, on the one hand open access in woodlands that are important for biodiversity is having a negative impact on their flora and fauna. On the other hand sensible requests for ancillary structures for woodland management, such as shelters for people and equipment are being refused due to a lack of understanding of the sector’s requirements. This was most recently exemplified by the Hillyfield Planning Inquiry in Dartmoor National Park. It can therefore be argued that the absence of a balanced approach to wildlife management and the cessation of woodland management altogether is leading to a degradation of our most important woodlands and their conservation value.

It is our hope that the outcomes of the review can lead towards a more enlightened approach to the practical requirements of woodland management and that wildlife value and opportunities for sustainable livelihoods improve as a result.

2. Key issues for small woodlands in protected landscapes

In overview there are 5 key themes for Small Woodlands owners and managers that we would like to see brought into consideration for the National Parks Review.

2.1 Improve and extend woodland management

The most pressing issue for woodlands in our designated areas is the lack of management. This is also the single most pressing threat to our woodlands and has several dimensions.

Over 50% of our woodlands are un-managed or under-managed due to a combination of lack of skills, expertise, markets, motivation, as well as demographic change. Whilst all of these issues can be addressed, however, as with many complex problems, it is very difficult to overcome such many-faceted problems when so many things need to be overcome at once. We would therefore advocate that change needs to begin with hearts and minds of both the general public and those responsible for the designation and regulation of our finest landscapes.

One of the key drivers is people, and people with the skills and desire to manage woodlands have been a dwindling resource across much of England in the 20th and now 21st centuries. That trend is however beginning to change and we are seeing a growing number of people coming to organisations like the Small Woods Association asking for ways they can become involved in woodland craft and management. This is now where a dichotomy starts to arise. As explained below in the “Working woodlands..” section.

Another key dimension of enabling our most treasured landscapes to move forward into the next decade with confidence is how to maintain and regenerate woodland cover in the face of unsustainable rises in squirrel and deer populations. Both deer and squirrels pose existential threats to our woodlands and particularly to the ability of mixed age stands to regenerate. In many woodlands the next generation of woodland succession is simply not coming through due to deer browsing damage and those that do survive are then so damaged by squirrels when they reach 15-20 years old that they do not survive, or only do so in a damaged and attenuated form.

Alignment to the 25 year Environment Plan requires woodlands to have a future. Our current approach to woodland management is disjointed and bound to failure, if it does not become more serious about these issues.

2.2 Working woodlands in a working landscape

England’s National Parks are the way they are, due to the fact they are working landscapes. In the farming sector, due to 4 decades of support through the Common Agricultural Policy, agricultural skills have been maintained in the countryside. The same cannot be said for woodland management and skills. In this sense the CAP has been a lopsided policy, focused largely on agriculture, whilst other forms of land management have received significantly less comprehensive support. Long term demographic and societal meta-trends have also contributed.

However, these trends are now showing signs of reversal and it will be to society’s benefit and to that of our most treasured landscapes if National Parks and AONB are now proactive in developing policies and facilitating developments that enable people who will provide for the manifold management needs that our woodlands need, to live and work in the countryside. Such changes could also facilitate the establishment of more sustainable livelihoods, with people living and working in the landscapes for which they are caring. As

land use requirements change, it would be an enlightened, if radical approach, if a proportion of tenanted agricultural units were repurposed for a future which has far more woodland

2.3 Landscapes working for communities

The past few decades have seen fewer and fewer people who live in National Park and AONB communities making their living from the land. For some such communities living in these environments, the beauty that surrounds them can seem like a straitjacket that provides nothing concrete to the lives of its communities; in the words of the former Rural Development Commission “You can’t eat the view”. It is our contention however that our finest landscapes can indeed hold the key to the health, wellbeing and sustainable livelihoods of their local communities. Specifically, in the woodland sector, there is a growing appreciation that there is a “Long Tail”1 to Forestry, in that the diversity of livelihoods based on small woodlands is wide and is only growing.

2.4 Woodlands for Wellbeing

The 8-point plan for England’s National Parks highlights the role played by our protected areas in health, wellbeing and social welfare. Our woodlands have a largely unrealised potential to foster health and wellbeing and create a “win-win set of outcomes” of healthy woods and healthy people. For example, by encouraging communities to get involved in the management of woodlands in and around communities, it promotes positive use, promotes environmental awareness and reduces negative effects, such as the tendency of unmanaged spaces to become “no go” areas. This goes well beyond the restorative powers of a stroll with the dog and there is a growing body of evidence that such activities in a woodland setting have greater positive health outcomes when appropriately designed and facilitated. The skills and capacities of those supporting these activities are also developing and new disciplines are being established in “Social Forestry”, “Mindfulness” and “Forest Bathing”.

2.5 Extending woodland cover

There is a widespread consensus behind the need for an extension in woodland cover, as England is one of the least wooded countries in Europe and an increase in woodland cover will help the country to address its climate change needs. There are one or two reasons to suggest that protected areas should be at the forefront of this change, as they include some of the most important woodlands and they could in fact become laboratories for change, embracing agro-forestry and driving forward change in the uplands.

3. Issues raised by the consultation themes which are relevant to Small Woodlands, their owners and managers

3.1 Governance

The governance of our National Parks and AONBs needs to ensure that small woodland owners are represented on their Boards. Woodland ownership is changing quickly and communication between National Parks and their local woodland owners is markedly less

effective than it is with farmers, fishers and those representing other land use types. With over 400,000 small woodlands across the UK, small woodlands are not the minority they may be imagined to be.

3.2 Financing

Those conducting the consultation and setting the framework for National Parks should recognise that the environment for funding within which the non-government sector is operating is very competitive and many small and medium sized charities are struggling for funding. No outcome from this consultation should lead National Parks and AONBs, as central government designations, to provide more competition for diminishing Non-government sector resources, as this would further weaken the non-government sector on which all sectors of society depend.

3.3 Areas for consideration for new designations

Whilst this is not at the heart of the Small Woods mission, we note that the map of designations serves the Midlands particularly poorly. We would recommend the consideration of areas in those parts of the country where designation would celebrate fine landscapes that are currently unrecognised, such as the Charnwood Forest, which was of course on the original short list for National Park consideration in the 1940s. Other Midlands areas for consideration might include Sherwood Forest or the National Forest.

4. The Small Woods Association

Small Woods Association is the foremost independent membership organisation that exists to support woodland owners across the UK. Established in 1988 in response to the need to support woodland owners in addressing the many challenges that face Small Woodlands. Its objectives are:

* To increase the sustainable management of small woodlands

* To promote the wider utilisation of local timber and wood products

The association has 2350 members, who between them own approximately 28,000ha. of woodland, a similar woodland area to that owned by the Woodland Trust.

Small Woods Association are keen to use our practical experience in the management of small woodlands in the support of the consultation. The Association has a long track record of delivering woodland management support projects, for example, the successful and well-regarded Heartwoods programme, as well as working with Forest Research on mobilisation of small woodland resources in the SIMWOOD project and a range of publications on the management and marketing of woodlands and wood products.

Annex – Objectives of the Review

* the existing statutory purposes for National Parks and AONBs and how effectively they are being met

* the alignment of these purposes with the goals set out in the 25-Year Plan for the Environment

* the case for extension or creation of new designated areas

* how to improve individual and collective governance of National Parks and AONBs, and how that governance interacts with other national assets

* the financing of National Parks and AONBs

* how to enhance the environment and biodiversity in existing designations

* how to build on the existing eight-point plan for National Parks and to connect more people with the natural environment from all sections of society and improve health and wellbeing

* how well National Parks and AONBs support communities.


Tree Planting in the UK Needs to Increase

A recent report from the CCC (Committee on Climate Change), has urged the importance of increasing tree planting in the UK, advising that the governments increase tree planting from 9,000 hectares per year to 20,000ha by 2020, then triple it to 27,000ha by 2030.

This increase in planting, it has been suggested, should also include a shift in land use. The report says that up to 17% of cropland and 30% of grassland could be converted in order to meet the demands of a growing population and to mitigate the effects of the changing climate. This change in land use will also need to include improved forest management, restoration of peatlands, and shifts to low-carbon farming practices, which improve soil and water quality.

Tree cover and planting rates in the UK are frustratingly low. Only 13% of the UK’s total land area is covered in trees, compared to the EU average of 38%, with planting falling far below targets every year. Although the government says that it plans to increase planting rates, these plans have not been funded.

Woodlands, by sequestering carbon, play a vital role in reducing our carbon emissions and improving resilience. Climate scientists have also recently declared in an IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) report, released at the beginning of October, that we have 12 years or less left to act on climate change before we reach a climate emergency. If we are to meet our carbon emission reduction targets, then it is essential that the UK follows and even exceeds the ambitious tree planting rates advised by the CCC, by planting up at least 1.2 million hectares by 2050.

Read more about the report here;