Bioregional is working to revive neglected woodlands by teaming up with owners, voluntary groups and local communities. We are searching for ways to put woods and copses back into good use, benefiting their owners, local people and the local and national economy.
Breathing new life into woodlands
Most of the UK’s woodlands have been worked by humans for hundreds or even thousands of years. Coppicing, thinning and planting helped to give them their characteristic wildlife and wildflowers while providing livelihoods and useful products for people.
But today, nearly half of England’s woodlands are considered under-managed ‒ equivalent to four times the area of Greater London. They support far fewer jobs, produce far less useful material and their wildlife has also declined. In recent years specialist woodland butterfly species have declined by over 70% and one in six ancient woodland flowering plants are now threatened with extinction.
Our Good Woods initiative provides a model for targeting support to neglected woodlands. This links to a vision for strengthening the national supply chain to bring more responsibly produced, home-grown timber and biomass to market, making the UK less reliant on timber imports. We also want local people to be able to enjoy their local woodlands for walks and other recreation.
The initiative began as a partnership project between leading DIY retailer B&Q, Bioregional and forestry charity The Sylva Foundation established in January 2013.
Working with 28 individuals and organisations including the Wildlife Trusts, we supported owners, managers and community groups in improving the condition and management of neglected woodlands across the South East and East of England. As a result of the pilot Good Woods project:
- Nearly 110 square kilometers of previously unmanaged woodland now has a sustainable management vision
- 300 woodland owners have received a Woodland Star Rating, a indicator showing the standard of woodland management being practiced and how this relates to the provision of ecosystem services such as flood abatement and carbon storage
- 20 community groups have received training in woodland management
- 1,000 woodland owners have received a Woodlands producer pack to help them assess their woodland for the full range of forestry products
- About 20% of the timber B&Q now sells is sourced from UK woodlands, and we are working together to increase that.
Good Woods established a network of organisations ranging from AONBs to Wildlife Trusts, to help identify owners potentially in need of assistance. Professional forestry advisors were allocated to each network member to deliver on the ground advice to the woodland owners.
A vital part of growing a thriving wood culture is plenty of community engagement involving people of all ages. We have run community woodland workshops to help reconnect people with nature and improve their understanding of working woodlands.
We’ve also updated the Community Engagement Toolkit (first published in 2011). The new guide, Stakeholder and Community Engagement – A guide for woodland owners and managers in England, reflects changes to the UK Forestry Standard and other developments in forestry and technology.
We have also written a brochure for businesses a setting out the benefits of getting involved in Good Woods – you can download it using the link on the right.
About our partners
Sylva Foundation is a UK-based charity on a mission to revive Britain’s wood culture. It aims to achieve this by caring for woodland and promoting forest produce for a sustainable future.
B&Q is the leading home improvement and garden retailer in Europe and the third largest in the world. It has 350 stores in the UK and employs more than 30,000 people. Globally, it has sales of £3.7 billion in 2013 and three million customer visits a week.