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‘Greener ways to visit your woodlands'

Man walking with his dog on the Kielder viaductForests and woodlands are brilliant places to visit. Unfortunately, few of us have woodland outside our front door and travelling by car to get to one seems the only option. However, there are four steps to consider when planning your sylvan leisure time if you want to reduce your impact on the environment.

1. Discover what is on your doorstep

Where you have access to a wood or forest locally, use this as your first option, especially if you are looking for somewhere to walk the dog or take a stroll daily. You will be amazed at the places you will discover on your own doorstep! Information on where you can visit is available on the Countryside Access website.

2. Explore alternatives to the car

Is there the option not to use your car? Is the wood within walking or cycling distance? Public transport is another alternative to get you to the wood of your choice. For example, Chopwell Woodland Park is one location where there are excellent public transport links. Although this can be difficult for more of the remote forests in the northeast, it can be done! Full public transport information is available in the ‘Planning your Visit’ pages for each Forestry Commission site.

3. Car Sharing

Are you meeting friends when you get to the forest to go for a walk or cycle? Why not travel together? Not only will this reduce your carbon emissions by reducing the number of vehicles on the road, but it will make for a much more enjoyable trip and save you money on both fuel and entry to the forest (if toll fee applicable).

There are a number of car share websites where you can find or offer a lift to others travelling to the same place. Alternatively, if you live in a town or city and only use a car infrequently, then car clubs can provide access to cars for trips.

4. ‘Eco-driving’

Eco-driving, or green driving, is about improving the way you drive in order to reduce the negative impact of your vehicle on the environment. By adopting some of these methods, you not only save fuel and reduce emissions but you can also save money!

Forest Drive, Kielder ForestThe first part of eco-driving is how you look after and maintain your car in general. For example, it is important to service your car regularly in order to ensure that the vehicle is in full working order and therefore as efficient as possible. When inflating your tyres, be careful not to under-inflate them as this wastes fuel.

Planning your journey is another part of eco driving. Getting lost certainly uses more fuel, so plan ahead and also try to avoid traffic congestion if possible. Consult the multimap links on each of our woodland web pages so you know where you are going.

Think of how you pack your car before you set off. Carrying unnecessary weight in the car increases fuel consumption, so don’t use the boot as a storage place for a pushchair or mountain bike unless you are going to be using them! Avoid using a roof rack unless you have to – storing luggage on the roof as opposed to inside the car reduces aerodynamics and fuel economy by 5%.

Driving style also affects the fuel consumption of your vehicle. Driving slower will certainly help as a car has up to 25% better fuel economy if driven at 50 miles per hour rather than 70mph, and braking and accelerating gently will also make a big difference. Try to use air conditioning as little as possible as this increases fuel consumption.

Eco driving is now part of the driving test in the UK, so pass these tips on to any future drivers too!

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.