Covid-19 Small Woods Update

Non-statutory advice to Small Woods members on visiting and working in woodlands following the updated government advice on movement restrictions, published 24th March, updated 12th May 2020

Please note we will be updating this guidance next week

This advice has been assembled using government advice and requirements, best practice as shared by other organisations and responses to questions raised by members. Government has issued a series of sets of guidance since the Prime Minister’s statement on 23rd March first announced #Lockdown. Guidance issued during the initial stages of the situation emphasised the need to stay home to counter the threats posed by the virus and its implications. Subsequent statements have simply clarified that position, until last weekend when the government indicated its intention to lift lockdown progressively.

For the time being, although little seems to have changed in some ways, the situation across the UK has become much more complicated as advice in England is now different from that in Wales, Scotland & N Ireland. Although restrictions on exercise have been relaxed in England, this is not the case in the other 3 countries, where the Stay Home message is still in place.

Even though there is some loosening of restrictions in England alone, Social Distancing, stays in place throughout the whole of the UK. The fact that this is a deadly virus has not changed and the purpose of keeping away from people outside your household is to reduce opportunities for virus transmission for your protection and that of everyone you might come into contact with. Social Distancing is therefore likely to be a long term feature of how work is done and lives are lived. This needs to be borne in mind by anyone who is planning work and activities in woodlands, potentially for the rest of 2020 and maybe longer.

The key change for woodland owners, managers and users now is that there is now no restriction on the distance you can travel to take exercise, so unless you wish to cross a national border, from England to Scotland or Wales there is no longer any bar on people travelling long distances. This means that woodland owners, managers and users who have not been able to visit distant woods can now do so, which will be a great relief for many. It also means that so can everyone else. This means that if you need to do work for which you need to maintain social distance anywhere near a path, you need to be extra vigilant to ensure there is no inadvertent contact. It also means that you are more likely to need to explain work you are doing to curious visitors.

Simple signs that state the purpose of the work and the need to remain as distant as possible will help to ensure you do not have to speak to passers by. Although this is often a joy of being in the woods, there are good reasons now why face to face conversations with strangers are to be avoided.

The summary of the movement restrictions and other Covid-19 related guidelines from can be found here.

The following text is Small Woods Association interpretation of the advice at the current point in the emergency period.

The main message – everyone should stay at home unless the journey is absolutely necessary, although leisure visits can now be taken to areas an unlimited distance from home. Whilst this continues to remain under review, any lifting is likely to be slow as the government act to avoid a 2nd spike in infection.

As of 13th May the government guidance now states:

“ You can … spend time outdoors – for example sitting and enjoying the fresh air, picnicking, or sunbathing; meet one other person from a different household outdoors and exercise outdoors as often as you wish – following social distancing guidelines.”

How to interpret government advice for Small Woodland owners:
Like most other individuals and organisations Small Woods are listening carefully to the government’s advice. We are also in contact with government officials on the implications of the advice. What they tell us is the advice is fluid, however it is now loosening progressively. We will aim to keep our media feeds up to date, as we become aware of new advice.

For woodland owners – whether you live near to your wood or not:
• Visits for exercise are encouraged, as long as you are can follow current advice about social distancing
• Be sure to stay distant from anyone else
• Do not travel in a car with anyone other than a member of your household
• Do not share tools, equipment or food with others

For practising woodland managers, professional or otherwise, please note that Defra has clarified the position on key workers as follows:
“Those involved in the supply chain of wood for key goods (including, but not limited to pallets, heating, packaging, tissue paper, timber harvesting, sawmills) should be considered key workers.” You shouldn’t have been stopped on your way to or from the woods previously, and this is even less likely now.

The intention of this definition is to ensure that the “the supply chain of wood for key goods” remains in operation as it is producing goods and services the government regards are essential at this time. That includes the wood fuel supply chain, on which many will still depend for their heating next winter. Without work now, these supplies will then run out. The advice on essential workers applies to all operators, regardless of size, it is not simply focused on larger operators. The importance of keeping to social distancing protocols in all of these operations is critical.

Defra have further clarified that: “Ecologists and environmental professionals should therefore be able to continue with outdoor work, including ecological surveying and supervision, where they can continue to follow Public Health England guidelines”
Deer and Squirrel control has been a particular concern, with a number of members raising this concern. In line with British Pest Control Association and BASC guidance, as it is clear that pest management cannot be done from home and is essential to the health and sustainability of well managed woodlands. “At present pest management professionals can go to work during the Government’s partial lockdown.” (
UK Government has provided further guidance: “with the exception of some non-essential shops and public venues, we are not asking any other businesses to close – indeed it is important for business to carry on.” Their advice on outdoor working including commercial forestry can be found here:

For woodland owners – if your wood is more distant and your visit is solely for leisure purposes:
• If your wood is distant or in a tourist area, then it is still advisable to exercise nearer home. We suggest you keep visits to a minimum, out of sensitivity to communities in these areas to reduce the risk of causing additional burden on local NHS services. Rural Communities, particularly in the National Parks, are very concerned that the change in government guidance is going to lead to uncontainable pressures on their communities and the services they rely on.

If your visit is to do work that is needed in your woodland, then there are no restrictions on your visit. If however you feel there is a danger that you may be challenged while going about your necessary tasks and duties in your woodland, the Small Woodland Supply Chain Letter of Comfort may still be helpful to explain the need for the work you are doing. It is an interpretation of government guidance, which is intended to support the work of woodland managers, foresters and the related supply chain.

In addition, Confor has produced a series of letters of comfort to show to anyone challenging your right to work. These can be found here.

The Known Risks:
• Contracting the virus – it is impossible to be 100% certain that you will not come into contact with other people and the virus could be on your gate post, or even within your wood where people may have had access, whether legal or otherwise.
• Staying safe in woods – Social distancing may be difficult, as many woods have access through them and along their boundaries via Rights of Way. Even practicing social distancing, given the length of time that the virus can survive on surfaces, access points are a risk. Even our neighbouring land owners may legitimately be touching gates and stiles. You also cannot guarantee against trespass.
• Sharing the virus – you may be carrying the virus without knowing it and risk passing it on to others, especially the vulnerable.
• Injury – Woodland management work also carries the risk of injury and this is not the time to be adding to the load being experienced by the NHS.

Everyone will have to decide what constitutes an ‘essential’ journey. Fundamentally it is up to each person to interpret the rules for their own circumstances, with wider society in mind, as everyone’s situation is different.

Useful self-test – “What would a nurse advise?”:
Woodland owners and managers are used to being very self-reliant and are used to assessing risks primarily from our own point of view. Corona Virus and the restrictions that relate to it are different. We are being asked to behave in a way that reduces risk for society as a whole. We are all very good at justifying our own actions, by looking at how their implications affect ourselves. A clinician takes a view of the whole population and they would advise on the basis that we all act to reduce the incidence of transmission of this horrible disease. Seeing the number of ambulances on the roads, anything we can do to reduce the risk of infection is the most important factor.

Is there any risk you could contract or share the virus?
The point is not whether there is a justification for the journey itself. Rather, if there is any danger that you will come into contact with other people, and the journey isn’t essential for reasons of human health, you should not make that journey. It is likely that many people already have the virus, but are not aware of it, because it is a mild case, or they are in the early stages. The cold, hard fact is also that you could pass it on or pick it up from a gate or a stile.
We appreciate that many jobs that had been planned for the next few weeks will now go by the wayside, but our society now faces a greater issue and we now need to act to save those who are more vulnerable as well as enabling the NHS to continue to cope.

Some general practical advice to help keep everyone safe:
• It is even more important to follow bio-security protocols than ever. Wash all equipment and PPE, particularly gloves and boots.
• Take sanitiser with you so you can sanitise your hands regularly and anything you might touch.
• Sanitise anything like gate latches and locks that you handle in order to access
• Wash or sanitise your hands after using any access points, eg, gates or stiles.
• Don’t work in groups of more than two. If you would normally work with someone from a different household then observe safe social distancing rules at all times. Ideally, work out a timetable so you can visit the wood separately.
• Avoid public transport if possible. Instead walk, run, cycle or drive to your wood, either on your own or with one other member of your household.
• Do not pick up anyone on the way or travel with them.
• If you meet anyone, then maintain safe social distancing protocols (stay at least two metres apart).
• Don’t make anyone a cup of tea.
• Don’t share tools.
• If you take your dog(s) with you, ensure to keep them in sight and under genuinely close control. They could encounter someone you don’t see and become unconscious vectors of the disease.
• Wash or sanitise your hands thoroughly before and after eating food, and when you get home.
• Use disposable gloves wherever possible.
Best practice advice could change, and we will update this guidance when we have new advice.


Covid-19: Letter of comfort

For our woodland owners

Many of you normally actively manage your woodlands at this time of year, spending time in them working, walking or just observing the onset of spring. Some are managed as part of small-scale supply chains (for example for firewood), others for biodiversity, your own firewood and recreation.

To help you, in the event that you are challenged while going about your necessary tasks and duties in your woodland, we have created a letter to explain the definition of “essential work”, as defined by government guidance, which is being carried out by woodland managers, foresters and the related supply chain. Here is the letter for you to print out and keep with you: Small Woodland Supply Chain Letter of Comfort

In addition, Confor has produced a series of letters of comfort to show to anyone challenging your right to work. These can be found here.


National Beanpole Week 2020


11-19 April 2020

In these troubling times, there has never been a greater need to make use of our outdoor space and create something positive. That’s why gardeners and coppice workers nationwide are getting ready for National Beanpole Week – despite the pressures coronavirus is imposing on all of us.

The dedicated week, from 11 to 19 April, celebrates and promotes the importance of our ancient coppiced woodlands and encourages gardeners to get behind the campaign and use the humble British Beanpole.

Monty Don by Marsha Arnold

The campaign, which started in 2009, has attracted support from a host of famous gardeners who are urging people to seek out locally sourced beanpoles.

Writer and broadcaster Monty Don, who is a long-term supporter of the coppice sector, backed the initiative and said: “Every British bean grower should use British beanpoles. Not only do they do the job better than anything else, but they help preserve and nurture British coppice woodland and all the wildlife that depends on it.”

This year’s campaign is focusing on the important role coppice woodlands will play in preventing a climate crisis. Richard Thomason, from the Small Woods Association, said: “The campaign is good fun and has a typical British quirkiness but there is a very serious story behind National Beanpole Week.”

Importing sticks around the world to grow beans up makes no sense. The carbon use of transport alone makes the practice foolhardy, especially when the UK has ancient coppice woodlands in desperate need of management. The vast majority of carbon, over 70%, which is sequestrated from the atmosphere, is held in the ground.

Coppice woodlands are particularly good at holding on to this carbon stored in the ground as the coppice stools maintain their root system to regrow new shoots.  The rapid decline of coppice management in recent years has also led to a worrying decline of the associated woodland species.

Toby Buckland

Author and gardening presenter Toby Buckland, gave his support to the campaign, saying: “Whether they’re for sweetpeas, perennials or the veg plot, hazel poles and peasticks make the most useful plant supports. But they’re not just easy on the eye or to work with, their use boosts our rural economy and enhances our woodlands for wildlife. And they’ll help make your garden more beautiful too!”

Horticulturalist Chris Collins, of Garden Organic, said: “Supporting our small woodlands is fundamental to our natural heritage, alongside these precious spaces are traditions and environmental practices that have existed for decades. One of these is the use of bean poles from the ancient practise of coppicing. Let’s celebrate the humble bean pole, supporting our essential edible crops through the ages. There is nothing finer than a climbing bean rambling its way through the rustic beauty of the bean pole – long may they last.”

Chris Collins

Gardeners can help by purchasing locally grown beanpoles and creating a demand for coppice restoration.

Beanpole local suppliers can be found by visiting:  Alternatively, visit:

Please note, each supplier will have their own policy regarding how to deliver their services safely during the Covid-19 crisis. Ask your supplier for details.

For further information email: or call 01952 432769.


Covid-19: Advice on visiting and working in woodlands – latest

Non-statutory advice to Small Woods members on visiting and working in woodlands following the updated government advice on movement restrictions 24th March 2020.

This is advice has been assembled using government advice and requirements, best practice as shared by other organisations and responses to questions raised by members.

Government issued updated advice on movement restrictions, following the Prime Minister’s statement on 23rd March. The summary of the movement restrictions from is here.

Small Woods Association members are asking for clarification and the Association will aim to maintain an interpretation of the advice as we move through the emergency period.

Read the latest information here:  Covid Guidance for Members – 27.03.2020


Suspending Small Woods Courses and Events

19 March 2020

We have taken the decision to suspend our planned Small Woods programme of events and courses for the foreseeable future, due to the global Coronavirus pandemic. We do not expect to be able to run activities until Autumn 2020, at the earliest. We appreciate your understanding and will continue to work hard to stay connected and support our members during this difficult time.

These are difficult times for everyone, and as much as we wish we could continue running courses and events, we are having to take a break for a little while for the safety of all our wonderful participants, tutors and staff.

Small Woods Online

However, we will not let this stop us sharing skills and knowledge and now, more than ever, it is important to support the amazing work our tutors do, as many of their livelihoods will be affected by these cancellations. We are working together to come up with some ideas as to how we can connect online and bring you some of the knowledge our tutors have to offer, watch this space!

In the meantime, you can also find us on social media where we will continue to offer woodland inspiration:


Action on Wood Fuel

Members will be aware of the press which has been generated in the past two days about Defra’s proposed actions to ban the burning of wet wood.
The Small Woods Association supports the principle of the change in regulation, as the medical evidence is overwhelming. Those who promote sustainable Woodland Management want to continue to be a positive contributor to society and eliminating these threats to human health is critical. A focus on dry wood will have a positive affect for all concerned, including the woodland management sector.
We will engage with government over the next year to look at how the changes will be brought in and how to help small wood fuel suppliers in the interim.
The proposals have been the subject of 2 rounds of consultation to which we responded, particularly focusing on the role played by small firewood operations in bringing woodlands back into management, as well as the role firewood plays in small forestry businesses and local (particularly rural) economies.
We are hopeful that these messages will weigh in the implementation of the proposals.
Following our consultation response the Defra officers responsible for this work approached us to gain a clearer understanding about the impacts of the regulatory change and the advice we gave them has influenced the regulatory impact work.
Our position was that any wood fuel operator should be able to provide dry wood, that the technology was relatively simple and the assurance systems were in place to support this.
The 2m3 threshold for wet wood supply is a significant positive outcome for our lobbying. We argued that a significant group of people purchased wet wood and then seasoned it themselves and that their systems were perfectly well set up to provide well dried wood. This is something we asked for, as we argued that those who normally procured cord wood were likely to be responsible and knowledgeable enough to understand there is no point in burning wet wood. That said, if the problem does not go away, then we could see this threshold being raised, or the sale of wet wood abolished altogether, in 2025, when the regulation is due for review.
We are interested in members views. Have we got this right? What should we be focusing on between now and 2021 when the new regulations are implemented.


Reflections for the New Year

Photo by Biel Morrow, Unsplash

By Ian Baker, Small Woods CEO

The connectedness of trees and our wider landscapes was brought home on a recent walk across sodden autumnal fields. Walking alongside a grassland that was managed to provide seed for overwintering birds; a great flock of finches, buntings and sparrows took to the sky, wary at my presence. They all settled in a single oak tree, which became a cloud of fluttering wings and twittering vocalisations, as they nervously waited for me to pass.

It struck me that without the sanctuary provided by this single tree, the birds may not have felt safe enough to have foraged in the field at all, rendering all the good intentions of the conservation body irrelevant. I don’t know if the conservation group factored this into their thinking, and they certainly haven’t planted any more trees to maintain the continued or wider availability of safe perches. However, we as woodland owners and managers can feel safe in the knowledge that what we are doing is providing the diversity our landscape needs, particularly for our fauna and flora. A recent report by Plantlife has highlighted concerns about the rush to plant ever more trees, which, whilst understandable, also carries the danger that important open areas could be lost due to competition between good intentions.

So, as we go into a new year, hopefully we will all continue to live with the benefits of messy, diverse and interconnected landscapes, and I hope the image of the oak tree crowned with wings and bird song is one that warms you as we go through the darkest days of winter.

Happy New Year!

Ian Baker, Small Woods CEO

Photo by Biel Morrow, Unsplash


Get Rooted Tree Planting

Get Rooted. Credit: Oboz Footwear

Get Rooted. Credit: Oboz Footwear

Graham Morgan, Small Woods Woodland Management Advisory Officer writes:

On Saturday 23 November 2019, The Small Woods Association, along with project partners and a keen and hardy herd of volunteers, planted trees in the grounds of Skiddaw House in Cumbria; the highest hostel in Britain and completely off grid. The event is the first such tree planting in the UK for project partner Oboz Footwear as part of its global tree planting initiative. It was also a great opportunity to highlight the challenges and opportunities for upland catchment management which includes flood prevention, adaptation and mitigation for the climate emergency (capturing carbon), farming, and a landscape of high amenity value used for recreation.

We braved blustery winds, driving rain and a freezing windchill to walk up the fellside to Skiddaw House, situated 500m above sea level. Neville from Cumbria Woodlands selected a great location for the event, and provided an informative and comprehensive demonstration of tree planting, including the technique of ‘screefing’ using a spade to remove the top surface of the ground. We planted approximately 50 alder, rowan and birch trees ideally situated for the upland conditions. We also spent time tending to existing tree saplings at the site. In time, the trees will provide much needed protection for the hostel from the elements, aswell as provide increased habitat diversity for wildlife, and carbon capture. Sites like these make a significant difference that outweighs their modest size.

The hostel managers Suzy and Martin provided essential and top class hospitality within Skiddaw House itself, with a warm welcome, hot tea and coffee and sumptuous cakes.

Thanks are due to colleagues from Sprayway who hosted a stall at SR Cunninghams in Ambleside all day too, spreading news of the event. Thanks are also due to Outdoor Instructor John Brooks and his colleague Alex for providing the mountain safety cover for the group.

The cloud eventually lifted on the return walk, and we were rewarded for our efforts with an inspiring view down the Glenderaterra valley of the colourful autumnal landscape. It was a grand day out in the fells, and we look forward to returning to continue the story.

Don’t worry if you missed out on this event, more Oboz tree planting events will be taking place in the spring time. Visit to find out how you can get involved.

For Small Woods events and courses visit:


Stihl Chainsaw Christmas 2019 Auction

Bid to win a Stihl Chainsaw in our Christmas Auction !

Sealed bids by Friday 20 December 2019.

We are hugely grateful to our supporters Stihl who have very kindly donated a STIHL MSA 200 C-B battery powered chainsaw with battery and charger, worth £570 RRP.

We will be auctioning the saw just before Christmas so please submit your sealed bids by Friday 20th December. To Julia Allinson at Small Woods, The Greenwood Centre, Station Road, Coalbrookdale, Telford TF8 7DR.  Please include your name and contact details on the sealed bid.

Good luck!


Woodland Restoration – challenges new and old

Skills Share 2019 and AGM

21st-22nd September 2019

Working Woodlands Centre, Maulden Wood, West End, MK45 3UZ

This year The Greensand Trust on the Greensand Ridge is hosting our Skills Share Programme and Annual General Meeting.

The ridge itself is a mixed greensand/sandstone escarpment stretching over 45km located mostly in Bedfordshire. The thin sandy soils supporting a very different landscape with a distinctive mosaic of habitats and land uses.

The Greensand Trust is an independent charity that works with the local communities and landowners to develop opportunities to link the landscape, heritage, wildlife and people in the region to help conserve and enhance the natural environment for all.

Join us at the Working Woodlands Centre for the talks, AGM and activities, a light lunch and refreshments on 21-22 September. There will be plenty of time for you to chat with fellow woodland enthusiasts and meet our staff and trustees.

We have a range of fascinating speakers:

Jon Balaam, Director of Development, The Greensands Trust

Jon will introduce the “Working Woodlands Training and Education Centre” in Maulden Wood, an initiative created to help bring under-managed and under-utilised woodlands back into positive management

Rebecca Oaks – Author and Coppice Champion

Rebecca has written three successful coppicing and coppice craft books (2 co-authored with Edward Mills – see below), one of which won the Woodland Awards best books of the year by Rebecca was also instrumental in forming The National Coppice Federation in 2014. She will talk about how coppice training can open up opportunities for more people to get involved in woodland management.

Suz Williams – Small Woods Coppice Apprentice

Following on from Rebecca’s talk, Suz, will talk about her story, as a city girl who is now carving out a future in woodland management.

In the afternoon there will be a range of woodland restoration workshops to choose from including reading neglected woodlands,  and meeting new and old threats and challenges of woodland restoration as well as craft demonstrations and posters and displays on Small Woods projects.

Sunday 22nd September

On there will be a 2 hour walk (starting at 10:30 am) which will be guided by naturalist Sue Raven, Ecologist, Senior Biodiversity Officer, The Greensands Trust.

For more information or to book a place contact Sonia on 01952 432769 or email