A woodland plan outlines how you’ll manage your site. It includes your ideas for the planting and felling of trees, creation of paths, removal of invasive species, management of other habitats such as ponds and hedgerows, and plans for woodland products or skill-building.

Get to know your wood

The first step is to understand your wood and its features.

goshawk female flying through woodland

Credit: John Waters / naturepl.com

Designations or special features

Check if your site has a statutory designation, such as SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). You can check using Natural England’s Magic Map or contact your local authority. Get in touch with your county archaeologist to find out if there are any heritage designations, such as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Lush ancient woodland in Wales

Credit: Jordan Mansfield / WTML

Ancient woodland

An ancient wood is one that has been continuously wooded since at least 1600 (1750 in Scotland). Do you think your wood could be ancient? Check our tips on what to look for and the historical records that could help.

Plantation with light shining through the trees

Credit: Edward Parker / WTML

Semi-natural or plantation woodland

A semi-natural wood has grown up naturally, while plantation woodland was planted by people. Semi-natural woods may be ancient or may have grown up more recently e.g. on abandoned land. Plantations may have been grown on land that was previously bare, or on sites that were previously wooded and then felled.

If you think your wood was planted on land that was previously ancient woodland, see our ancient woodland advice and support pages to see how you can your wood could be restored.

 

A red deer stag in autumn woodland at Richmond Park

Credit: Sylwia Domaradzka / Alamy Stock Photo

How has the wood been managed in the past?

Previous management records, old maps and clues within the wood will help you understand how the wood was managed in the past.

Old pollarded trees suggest the wood was once managed as wood pasture with a more open canopy and grazing animals. Woods that have been coppiced develop plant communities that thrive in the light conditions. Old trees have dead and decaying wood and rot holes that provides homes for wildlife.

hazel male catkins tiny female flowers

Credit: Ross Hoddinott / naturepl.com

Tree species

The tree species growing in the wood will influence what you can do, whether you’re planning to produce firewood, charcoal or other woodland products.

A good mix of native species, local to the area, means your wood will be more resilient to threats from pests and diseases. It will also provide a wider range of habitats for wildlife, and shrubby species like hawthorn, blackthorn and elder create layers of structure.

ancient tree with wide trunk

Credit: Archie Miles / WTML

Age of trees

Ideally you want to see a mix of ages of trees within the wood. This will provide structural diversity and potential for sustainable timber production.

How old is my tree?

  • Ancient or veteran - in the third and final stage of life. The age at which this occurs is different for each species. Get our tips on how to identify ancient or veteran trees.
  • Mature - reached maturity but not yet started to decline.
  • Pole stage - larger than saplings but still have not reached large diameter. For many species this could be between 10 and 40 years old.
  • Saplings - established but too big to be seedlings. Often over 1m in height but less than 10 years old.
  • Seedlings - just one or a few years old.

If there are not many saplings or seedlings in your wood, try to understand why. Are they being grazed out by deer? Or is the forest canopy too dense, with too little light to allow seedlings to survive?

Find out more about ancient trees including identification tips.

Brown hawker dragonfly dipping ovipositor into a lake holding on to a root

Credit: Ann Jacobs / Flickr

Other habitats and deadwood

Woods include open spaces such as glades and rides, and water features such as streams, rivers and ponds. These are important habitats for wildlife and should be included in your management plan.

Deadwood is a significant part of the ecology of a wood. Most woods in the UK have relatively little deadwood, but encouraging more is a key part of sustainable forest management.

hazel dormouse pup

Credit: Marko König / Alamy Stock Photo

Wildlife

It’s important to know what species live in your wood, including protected or priority species, so it can be managed appropriately.
There may be existing surveys for your wood or you may want help producing species surveys. For advice and help contact the local authority, local wildlife trust, Local Environmental Records Centre, or natural history societies.

Threats

Some of the key threats to look out for include:

  • overgrazing/browsing
  • tree pests and diseases
  • invasive non-native species
  • human pressures such as fly-tipping.

Increasing numbers of pests and diseases are attacking the UK's trees. Here are the key tree pests and diseases, with symptoms, outlook and how you can report them. For management advice of small woodlands visit Forest Research.

Access and public rights of way

Make sure you are aware of any public rights of way within the wood and any responsibilities in relation to these. As the owner or occupier, you must keep any public rights of way visible and not obstruct or endanger users. For more information on public rights of way see the guidance at GOV.UK.

You’ll also need to consider access for management, and for recreation if you are going to welcome visitors to the site.

How to create a woodland management plan

Taking on a community wood may involve formalising your plans into a management plan document. And some grant schemes require you to have a management plan in place prior to making an application. Find out how to create a management plan at GOV.UK.

Explore more community woods