We teach practical woodland skills

The UK’s small woodlands under 20 hectares in size together add up to 422,000ha of land that makes a vital contribution to biodiversity, to landscape, to people and to local wood products.

These woodlands need care, and they need knowledgeable care. Some small ancient woodlands are often neglected and unmanaged, with declining habitats that are unproductive and poor (especially for ancient woodland flora species, which have declined by 34% in the last 20 years).

They are over looked by many of our environmental authorities and very often by their owners. It is when these woodlands are neglected and forgotten that three things can happen:

a) They become overgrown, heavily shaded, full of tall spindly trees, less beneficial than they could be for wildlife or people or as productive woodlands for timber. Keep an eye out for these as you drive through the countryside – they are generally easy to pick out.

b) They can disappear, sometimes with agreement of planning authorities as part of new development, road building , for agriculture or industry, or just absorbed into domestic gardens  – please keep an eye out for these as well as  many have disappeared in the past. We need to know if your local small woodland is threatened why?  I get frequent calls from people who want our support and help because a woodland is threatened, and I can do little beyond general advice.

c) Our increasingly urban populations become distanced from seeing woodland as a working environment, and we lose our connections with woodland culture: the woodsmanship of the past.

As well as these direct threats, there is another less obvious threat – the lack of new entrants to forestry and woodland as a career.

Woodland workers are ageing, and few young people are joining the sector*. Many small woodland owners come to the sector from other careers – a good source of new interest, and often giving a woodland new life, yet to help woodlands achieve their full potential needs advice and training, which is where we can help.

Small woodlands also provide an ideal venue for training existing workers and owners, and engaging new entrants through events and short courses.

What we do to help

We aim to

  • raise skill levels and knowledge about woodland management, through advice, skill sharing, our website, our members magazine, Smallwoods, and training
  • bring young people into the sector through social forestry and apprenticeship schemes
  •  offer subsidized training for members of Small Woods
  • seek grants to subsidize training to non members as well.
  • deliver a suite of accredited woodland management courses, covering many aspects of working in woodlands. See our courses pages for more details
  • provide a free email advice line on technical issues
  • organise walks and talks around the country using members’ woodlandsoffer free advisory visits in the West Midlands
  • organise an annual conference  often in a beautiful site with wonderful woodland, at which we encourage people to share their woodland skills with others, and provide workshops by skilled trainers
  • train forest school leaders and social forestry group leaders

We support new entrants to the coppice and sustainable woodland management sector through our apprenticeships: the National Coppice Apprenticeship, offered in partnership with the Bill Hogarth Memorial Coppice Apprenticeship Trust and the Ernest Cooke Trust, and also through the government sponsored apprenticeship working with colleges around England.

Our projects that help to deliver this objective:

Woodland Initiatives Network
Training and Apprenticeships
National Coppice Development 

*Apprenticeships Review Small Woods Association for the Forestry Commission, 2008