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British Woodlands Survey

 The British Woodlands Survey (BWS) gathers evidence about Britain’s woodlands and those who care for them. The BWS aims to provide an evidence base on which future policies and practice can be developed.

BWS2017 is the first repeat survey in a five-year cycle of major surveys intended to explore broad themes (the first survey taking place in 2012). In the intervening years two national surveys explored specific themes. The BWS is co-ordinated by Sylva Foundation.

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Bws2017 Infographic




  • Responses were received from 1,630 people, distributed across the UK. The majority of respondents (660) were private woodland owners, who together with 180 forestry agents, controlled 3,629 woodland properties covering 645,370 hectares. The response represented 28% of all private sector woodland area in the UK (2.30Mha), and one-fifth of the total UK woodland area (3.17Mha).
  • Woods and Society: Respondents recognised the high value held among wider society of woodlands as places important to wildlife; and those with the aim of improving biodiversity recognised that their management practices were strongly influenced by the general public. Half of respondents believed that human health and well-being was a social good, yet only a minority (17%) considered financial incentives a factor in social good-related management activities.
  • Value and Economy: The majority of woodland owners and agents reported a financial loss in woodland profitability over the last five years, stating that this represented no change, while one-fifth reported making a profit. Natural capital ranked sixth as an overall theme, yet there was considerable uncertainty about the term and the services we derive from it (‘Ecosystem Services’). Conversely a large majority (87%) considered their land provided valuable ecosystem services, but did not know, or were uncertain, about its economic value.
  • Environmental Change: Respondents were strongly motivated to diversify tree species in order to support Biodiversity (76%) and Forest health (72%). Timber yield was the strongest motive against (75%) tree species diversification. There was strong awareness of environmental changes observed in woodlands in the last five years, particularly for Pathogen damage (76% observing change), and Vertebrate pest damage (48%).
  • Skills, Training and Knowledge Transfer: Woodland owners stated a strong preference to receive advice from an onsite advisor over any other type of support, whilst printed information was least popular. Some groups were more likely to seek Information online. Overall, most respondents felt that their views were poorly represented in policy formulation, developmentof practice guidance, and in the setting of research priorities...
  • Woodland Creation: Tree planting received a medium rank (9 of 17) in England and Scotland. 57% of respondents had not planted trees in the last five years, while among those who had planted, 45% stated that grant income had been an incentive. Among those willing to consider more tree planting, complexity of regulations, lack of grant aid and threats from deer/squirrels were the greatest disincentives...



Hemery, G., Petrokofsky, G., Ambrose-Oji, B., Edwards, D., O’Brien, L., Tansey, C., and Townsend, M. (2018). Shaping the future of forestry: Report of the British Woodlands Survey 2017. 34pp.


Advisory Group:

Included: Confor; Country Land and Business Association; Earth Trust; Forestry Commission England; Forestry Commission Scotland; Forest Research; Forestry Stewardship Council UK; Llais y Goedwig; National Forest Company; Natural England; Natural Resources Wales; Royal Forestry Society; Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; Small Woods; Small Woodland Owners Group; Sylva Foundation; Tilhill Forestry; University of Oxford, and; Woodland Trust


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