Seminar lifts lid on how to deal with dangerous trees

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Countryside managers and landowners came together recently to learn how to ensure that people can enjoy our woodlands free from the risk of dangerous trees.

Forestry Commission Wales hosted a seminar on best practice on tree safety and recreation at Garwnant Visitor Centre, near Merthyr Tydfil.

Delegates learned the “tricks of the trade” used by Forestry Commission Wales to maintain safety on the 126,000 hectares (311,000 acres) of woodland owned by the Welsh Government.

Local Area Manager Paul Dann gave an insight to the “zonal” risk assessment system used to check the condition of trees, along with other well-established systems to ensure people’s safety.

Monitoring of trees and the way records are kept of any actions taken or required were also discussed during the seminar, which was hosted by Planning Forester Mansel Jones.

Mansel, a member of the new body for countryside professionals, Natur, arranged the seminar following a request from fellow members who said they had limited knowledge on managing tree risk and the public.

He said, “Woodlands offer wide-ranging and exciting opportunities for recreation and enjoyment, but it’s obviously vitally important that our woods remain safe places to visit.

“This was a great opportunity for Forestry Commission Wales to pass on its professional experience to fellow land managers, so that people can enjoy our woodlands in safety.”

The seminar examined various options open to land managers carrying out tree risk assessments, depending on how popular a woodland was with the public and the way it was used.

“The forests are zoned into three areas – high, medium and low risk – and this gives a monitoring timescale, for example, a high zone will be checked at least once a year, a medium zone once every five years and a low zone may not need to be checked,” said Mansel.

“Typically, the area around a visitor centre and way-marked trails would be classified as high, whereas the middle of a large forest with no visitors, such as Tywi forest, would be low.

“If a tree is deemed to be unsafe, options could be felling it, pollarding the tree (to ensure it still has value for conservation), removing dying branches, moving a path or relocating a bench from under a tree.”

Delegates, who included Natur members from various organisations such as the national parks, county councils, arboricultural consultants and private landowners, also learned of the tell-tale signs to look for when checking the health of a tree.

As well as public safety, the seminar looked at landowner responsibilities in relation to European protected species and considered the cost implications of carrying out operations and possible liability if accidents happened.

Training companies, such as LANTRA, run courses to become a competent assessor.

Caption: Mansel Jones shares some tree safety tips at the best practice seminar.


A total of 14.3 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Government.

Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.

Natur, the Welsh Institute of Countryside and Conservation Management, is the new professional institute for all those who work in the Welsh living and cultural environment. It is made up of a network of organisations who come together to support staff working in the Welsh landscape, through sharing and co-ordinating information on jobs, career development, training and volunteering opportunities. For further details go to
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on

For more information on Forestry Commission Wales’s approach to tree safety, contact Mansel Jones on 0300 068 0279, email

Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email