Active Forest Programme Evaluation


Skycycle bike rideThe Active Forest Programme aims to create a sporting habit for life for visitors to the public forest estate in England. The programme will provide engaging, inspirational and motivating sport and exercise opportunities for new and existing forest visitors. The key aspects of the programme will be delivered through: 1) partnership and engagement, 2) communication, 3) monitoring and evaluation.

Research objectives

The evaluation research aims to identify:

  • What types of sporting activities are undertaken and enjoyed in forests as part of the Active Forest Programme and by whom?
  • How many of those participating are new to regular sport, new to sport and how many are in the 14-25 age range?
  • Are there added or differing benefits or challenges of undertaking sporting activities in forest environments as opposed to more traditional sporting venues such as leisure centre, sports fields/tracks?
  • Is there evidence of any sustained behaviour change and any perceived health and well-being benefits being realised from participating in the Active Forest programme?
  • What lessons can Forestry Commission England and Sport England learn from the Active Forest Programme in terms of the partnerships developed and the types of interventions most likely to attract participation in sporting activities in the forest environment?

Results so far

A man and woman running in the forestThe first year involved developing the programme, consolidating existing sport and exercise activity and piloting the monitoring and evaluation methodology. Results from the 2014/15 monitoring and evaluation report reveal:

Over 60,000 sport and exercise visits were made at the 8 Forestry Commission England sites involved in the programme.

Running, orienteering and mountain biking where the main sport and exercise activities organised at the sites.

The participant survey showed that 60%, of those who completed the survey, had not had not undertaken the specific sporting activity, they were involved in, before. 73% regularly got involved in sports activity, at least once a week or more. People found out about sport opportunities in the forest either from a friend or via a website.


The evaluation of the Active Forest Programme started in 2014 and will run until 2017. Data is currently been collected via online surveys and through forest focus groups and interviews.

Related Products/Services

 Find out more about participation rates in outdoor activity


Liz O’Brien

Funders and partners

The Active Forest Programme is funded by Sport England with support from Forestry Commission England.

Forestry Commission policy

Forestry Commission England’s corporate plan highlights the health benefits of recreational activity in forests

Sport England is developing insights into the outdoor sectors and working with a range of outdoor sector partners including Forestry Commission England and the National Trust.