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Group felling

Group felling involves removing all the trees in a specified area to create a gap in the woodland. Depending on the purpose of the felling, this could be a small area of only a few dozen trees or a much larger area.

Group felling is one of a number of management operations that will increase structural diversity, produce timber for sale and is beneficial for wildlife. This long-term maintenance is an important part of woodland management, and gives you the opportunity to both grow your business and protect the future of our landscape for future generations.

The benefits of group felling

Thinning illastration









There are many instances where group felling is the preferred option for tree management. These include to: 

  • plant light-demanding species such as oak
  • simplify the work by marking a whole group rather than selecting single trees in the wood
  • support the transition to continuous cover forestry systems
  • introduce a diversity of tree species, providing added robustness against climate change, pests and diseases

Before you fell

Group felling will always need a Felling Licence from the Forestry Commission and should be part of a long-term strategy that considers how the clearing will be regenerated. You can find out more here or contact your local woodland officer for local expertise and bespoke guidance.

 Trees growing in a woodland setting adapt to competition from neighbouring trees and the lack of wind in the centre of the wood. While this is ideal for timber production, it can make trees vulnerable to wind when exposed at the edge of a group felling. To counter this, ‘windfirm’ edges can be utilised. This may mean taking out more trees than originally intended, which is ideally carried out when the trees are still young or creating rough edges to dissipate wind. It will also help introduce different ages of trees within the wood to help continuous woodland conditions prevail.

Consider the forest floor

Opening up a clearing through group felling and allowing more light onto the ground significantly enhances the forest flora, and improves the habitat for wildlife and game birds. However, it also risks letting unwanted species such as bracken and bramble overwhelm the area. Herbivores need to be managed to ensure successful restocking or regeneration. In costing work, give consideration to the aftercare and protection of new planting and the control of unwanted species, which will be essential in the first few years of growth.

Managing woodlands

Woodland management is the long-term maintenance of your woodland that delivers your business and woodland management plan objectives. It can also unlock extra income. Your woodland is a valuable resource, so make it work for your business by:

  • Boosting income from sale of timber and woodfuel, game shoots or tourism
  • Enhancing the capital value of your estate
  • Access grants and expertise to help improve or create new woodland

Our woodland experts can help you manage your woodland, in your own way. Our support ranges from showing you how to access various grants to helping you produce an effective UK Forestry Standard compliant woodland management plan.

Felling also improves timber value and creates the diverse edge habitats for our rare and declining woodland species. Your local woodland officer can also help you apply for felling licences.

Biosecurity measures: Keep it clean

  • Think kit – scrape, brush or knock mud and debris from your footwear, clothing and equipment
  • Think transport – remove any build-up of mud and debris from vehicles and machinery before leaving any site
  • Think trees – source plants responsibly, monitor for signs of ill health and report suspect plants using our Tree Alert online form

Biosecurity advice - Keep it clean

Useful links

United Kingdom Forest Standard
European Protected Species
Felling Licence Application guidance
Managing deadwood in forests and woodlands
Information on pests and diseases
Climate change and forests

How can I get involved?

We and our partners are working hard to bring more woodland into active management and provide on-the-ground support and expert advice. For more information: 0300 067 4000 or

Last updated: 31st January 2018

What's of interest

Top tips for wildlife
Woodlands with different tree species, ages and management regimes are more resilient to storms, pests, disease and fire. This can also help reduce the extent of damage caused by flooding. Consider timing operations to avoid the bird nesting season.

Harvesting woodland plays a crucial role in creating new habitat for butterflies and birds. It can also generate additional income through timber sales.

You may also need a woodland management plan to access grants for forestry kit and equipment.