Owning a woodland

Many Small Woods members own their woodlands, many others would like to!

Some small woodlands form part of farms or estates, while others have been inherited. However the majority of small woods are used for leisure, firewood, conservation, timber production, or just the peace and quiet. The average size of woodlands  managed by Small Woods members is between 5 and 10ha.  We are often asked how big is a small woodland – our reply is that it depends on your objectives! We advocate low impact management, often using techniques such as closed canopy forestry or coppice with standards. Most people who manage a woodland of up to several hundred hectares  in this way will benefit from joining Small Woods.

The demand for individual woodlands that are small enough to be managed effectively by a few people has risen considerably in the last 10 years. Prices have risen accordingly.

What you can do with a woodland  is heavily regulated by local authorities and other agencies. You may need permission for working on trees and don’t assume you can erect a building, however modest. You will need to apply for change of use if you intend to undertake anything other than forestry.

But those that take on a woodland are invariably smitten by their relationship with trees, plants and wildlife. Most discover a joy in the physical therapy of improving unloved woods, watching trees flourishing and a wider range of flora and fauna returning to their woods.

Planning permission

Quite rightly, the authorities regulate activities and the building of structures in woodlands quite strictly (if they didn’t every woodland would hold a mansion and woodland prices would shoot through the roof!), and the chances of you getting permission to build a house in your woodland are remote.  Occasionally individual woodland workers (such as Ben Law) have succeeded but only after a long battle where they have had to prove that their presence on site is essential for their forestry activities and that they have been able to make a reasonable living income from the woodland.

As the law stands you are entitled to erect a small shed in your woodland (permitted development) as long as it is used exclusively for forestry purposes (tool storage etc) and not for regular overnight stays, recreation equipment storage or barbeques.

Other work, such as providing new or upgrading existing vehicle access onto a public road will normally need planning permission.  You will also need planning permission if you are proposing a ‘change of use’ by using your woodland for non-forestry purposes.

More information is given in two articles from Smallwoods magazine-

Living in woods