Small woodlands are vital for wildlife, for timber and for people
They provide a range of benefits that help to maintain our lives – a growing green infrastructure for everyone. Yet our small woodlands are vulnerable – over half of the UK’s small woodlands are neglected and in poor condition, overlooked and undervalued. These woods are in danger of disappearing – some of them have only recently been included on the Forestry Commission’s inventory of woodlands (in 2010), and it is these small areas of woodland that vanish – through development, for new roads, for agriculture, absorbed within gardens, and for industrial use.
Small Woods vision
‘To see small woods in the UK valued for the benefits they bring to a sustainable society, and to help achieve their better management to make the most of those benefits.’
Small woodlands do so much
Small woodlands need our care and protection to realize their full value. In the fight against climate change these small areas added together provide us with so much: they are rich habitats for wildlife, they slow storm water runoff preventing flooding, they filter and clean the air, they provide places for recreation and therapy, and they are also productive – growing many thousands of tonnes of timber every year without fail – and if we sustainably harvest a proportion of this growth, we can provide woodfuel and keep the woodlands even healthier, and also providing much needed employment, with some of the timber providing the wood products we need in our gardens and homes.
Commercial forestry is an appropriate management system for our major plantations, but between the current neglect of our small woodland resource and large scale commercial management there is a third way: using lower impact management systems such as continuous cover or coppice with standards, which suit the conditions of growth and position of many of our smaller woodlands. Taking only small amounts of timber as the woodland matures is a traditional way of managing woodlands, keeping them productive and healthy. It is also important to this sustainable management that owners and workers engage with the local community to pass on the message about well managed woodlands, and to ensure people can use them for therapy, for exercise and for education.
Small Woods are everywhere
Small Woodlands make up 25% of all woodland cover in the UK: 422,000 hectares in all.*
*Total number of woodlands over 2ha in the UK: 82,829; number under 20ha in size 69,750. (Forestry Commission, National Inventory of Woodlands and Trees 2003). Total area of woodlands between 0.5 and 2 ha is 352,550ha (Forestry Commission, National Forest Inventory, 2009-2014, Woodland Area Reports, 2010) This new inventory has ‘found’ 282,000 ha of previously unrecorded small woodlands.