Social and cultural values of woodlands in northwest and southeast England

How and why do people in northwest and southeast England value woodlands?


Children in Liverpool enjoy a fun day at their local woodland

There is an important relationship between people’s views of trees and woodlands and their concerns about development, the loss of green space and access to woodlands. Forest Research evaluated the value that people place on woodlands. The team compared attitudes between groups from northwest and southeast England and between rural and urban populations.

Key findings and recommendations


  • Escape: people appreciate forests and woods because they offer escape from everyday life and pressures
  • Cheap: people on low incomes appreciated that it costs very little to visit woods  
  • Safety: women generally felt uncomfortable about visiting woods alone
  • Loss of greenspace: all groups were worried about over development and loss of greenspace
  • Education: all groups felt education about woods was important – rural citizens wanted to learn more about their environment while urban citizens stressed the importance of educating children to respect the natural environment
  • Connections: people’s attitudes to woods related to their wider perspectives on environmental and social change


  • Encourage public participation: good quality and fair public participation in woodland decision-making can engender public trust and confidence, and allow local people to express their views and contribute to woodland improvement
  • Seek local knowledge: residents’ knowledge of their local area provides relevant information for organisations which may affect their management plans and operations
  • Multi-layered meaning: forest managers need to respect that woods are associated with experiences and memories – they are not just physical spaces
  • Security: woods that appear neglected or abused generate greater anxiety, so organising events, activities and clearing away rubbish all help to increase visits and regular use of a site


Report - A sort of magical place

Funders and partners

A partnership event between Forest Research, Lancashire Constabulary, CABE Space and English Nature.


Completed 2004.


Liz O’Brien