There is a growing body of evidence that woodlands provide a number of social benefits as well as the, more obvious, economic and environmental benefits. These include mental and physical health, as well as cultural and social benefits.
Mental and physical health
Woodlands provide an opportunity to exercise in a calm and restful environment. Exercise in woodlands has been shown to relieve physical symptoms such as high blood pressure and obesity, as well as mental symptoms of stress and depression.
This activity can range from working to manage woodlands, to walking, and cycling. The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers has a "Green Gym" project specifically for exercise, but there are a number of other projects that can contribute to physical fitness in addition to enjoying the woodland. The NHS has a project supporting tree planting and other health benefits of woodlands. The Forestry Commission has a large number high quality mountain bike trails and often provides cycle hire at its visitor centres.
Woodlands are regularly used as tools in increasing mental health and wellbeing. An enormous range of different groups (with very different needs) use woodlands, examples of this include:
- Work with special needs groups
- Horticultural therapy
- Tai Chi
- Work with forces personnel experiencing post-traumatic stress
Social and cultural
Woodlands provide an important venue for social activity. This can range from fully fledged concerts and festivals to simple dog walking and picnics. One of the exciting developments in recent years is the development of Forest Schools as an educational resource. Woodlands are also being used as one of a suite of programmes for Offender rehabilitation programmes, and as a venue for corporate team building events.
Woodlands have been extremely significant elements in our culture and are continually referenced within our history, literature, and art. Woodlands are often used as venues for theatrical productions and there are a large number of different art installations within woodland. There are often important archaeological sites within woodlands and this has lead to a number of initiatives and projects.
There is an extended list of documents and evidence on the education, health, well-being, cultural, and recreational benefits associated with woodland and how woodland can enhance local areas on a social level here.