Sustainable woodlands

We encourage the wider use of woodlands

The recent furore over the Government’s Forestry Consultation demonstrates the depth of feeling British society has for its woodlands. We value and appreciate them for walking, cycling, riding, bird-watching, for sports, and just for seeing them in the landscape.

This connection between people and woodlands is backed up by specialist medical research : which shows not only that our ‘stress muscles’ in the face relax when we have been in woodland for a few minutes, but also that driving to work through a tree lined route makes us better able to solve problems at work, and less likely to be fractious after driving home. Viewing trees from the window of a hospital makes us recover more quickly, using lower doses of drugs*. We have found through our work in Telford that engaging residents to work in their local park woodland has a similar effect, by increasing physical activity, bonding social groups and increasing well being.

Young people learning skills and gaining confidence from woodland work will soon learn to transfer their skills to a more conventional workplace if they don’t wish to continue in forestry – but they will always retain that connection with living things and understand the need for care of the natural world.

This special connection also works with people who have been alienated from society, for whatever reason, whether they suffer from a mental health problem, or have been involved in crime, drug or alcohol abuse. A three or six month structured training programme learning how to manage woodlands and work in the countryside, has a real impact on those taking part.

Small woodlands have a special role in many of our (especially urban) communities and have a valuable role in reconnecting people with woodlands . More community groups are taking a new look at what their local woods can offer, and are showing interest in managing these woods to benefit their communities, to produce woodfuel, to enhance biodiversity and for access and health projects.

Moreover, engaging communities with a local woodland gives them a stake in its future, and means that is less likely to be flytipped,  vandalised or abused. Having a community which knows and loves a woodland may be important when it comes to decisions on development and planning roads.

How we help

  •  encourage woodland owners to open their woodlands to groups from local school and community, or visitors once or twice a year, or for social forestry programmes
  • test out methods of delivering social forestry programmes
  • produce good practice guidance on social forestry
  • deliver health and wellbeing programmes in Shropshire and Wales
  • measure the impact of our programmes through participatory surveys
  • increase understanding of woodland management being good for access, so more users understand the benefits accruing from good management
  • deliver forest education sessions for younger children

What we do

Green Wood Centre

Our Centre for sustainable small woodlands  takes volunteers from all walks of life, and trains them in working in woodland or with wood products.

Social forestry

We run many social forestry programmes: working with people on probation, prolific offenders and young people not in education or employment, or those at risk of offending. We run health projects in Telford and Wales working with people with recoverable mental health problems, obesity issues or other hidden long term cardiac problems.

Forest education

We offer forest schools and other education projects to increase understanding of woodlands and wood products

Increase woodland access in local urban neighbourhoods

We work in local green spaces to improve access and the management of the woodlands

Woodland volunteering

We accept many trainees onto our volunteer programmes through our projects and at the Green Wood Centre

Community woodland group support and advice

We offer help and support to groups who want to manage or own their local woodlands.

Coed Lleol

Coed Lleol runs programmes in Aberystwyth and Treherbert  to explore how woodlands can be made more accessible for people with chronic physical and or mental health conditions. Coed Lleol is a partnership project hosted by the Smallwoods Association with a steering group of representatives from the Forestry Commission Wales, the Countryside Council for Wales, the Woodland Trust, the Wildlife Trusts, Tir Coed, the Health Service in Wales, and representatives of community woodland groups and self employed foresters

*The health benefits of being in woodlands are widely listed, for example in the Forestry Commissions

Trees and woodlands: Nature’s health service,    Liz O’Brien, November 2005.