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Britain’s forest area hits almost 3m hectares

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The Forestry Commission has published new maps and statistics showing that Great Britain has about two and a half times more forest and woodland than it had 100 years ago.

They show that Britain has almost 3 million hectares (7.5 million acres) of forest and woodland, representing 13 per cent of the total land area, and equivalent to almost 4 million football pitches. It is estimated that a century ago woodland cover was between only 4 and 6 per cent.

The new reports and maps form part of the National Forest Inventory (NFI), and show that, at 31 March 2011:

  • Great Britain had 2,979,354 hectares of woodland;
  • England had 1,292,372ha (10 per cent of the land area);
  • Scotland had 1,383,410ha (18 per cent);
  • Wales had 303,572ha (15 per cent);
  • 42 per cent of woodland comprised mostly conifer species, 37 per cent mostly broadleaved species, and the remaining 21 per cent comprised mostly mixed conifers and broadleaves; and
  • the Forestry Commission managed 807,288ha, or 27 per cent, of Britain’s woodland, with other owners managing the remaining 2,172,066 hectares, or 73 per cent. (See Note 2 below.)

Welcoming the reports, Wilma Harper, Director of Corporate and Forestry Support at the Forestry Commission, said,

“Public expectations of Britain’s woods forests have never been greater. Forest managers deliver not just sustainably grown timber and places to walk and enjoy nature, but also a wide range of benefits including clean air and water, and food and homes for our wildlife.

“Managing forests to provide these benefits is a complex business which needs precise and up-to-date information. The National Forest Inventory will be the most accurate inventory of our forest resources we have ever produced, and provides a great baseline to work from as we move forward.”

Dougal Driver, the chief executive of Grown in Britain, an initiative to connect more people with woods and trees and promote greater use of home-grown British timber and forest products, added,

“It’s fantastic to have confirmation that our woodland resource continues to expand, and we must now take up the challenge of maintaining this growth for future generations. The data is impressive, and confirms that the resource is there to meet the growing demand for British timber.

“With robust information like this we can plan with confidence to grow the market for sustainably produced, renewable and environmentally friendly products from our woods and forests.”

The woodland area information comprises separate reports for Britain, England, Scotland and Wales. The England and Scotland reports include regional breakdowns. They, and other NFI products, can be downloaded free from the NFI area of the Forestry Commission website at


  1. The woodland area reports and maps reflect the situation at 31 March 2011, and refine and update the provisional reports published on 26 May 2011, which were based on data available in 2010.
  2. Since 1 April 2013, land in Wales previously managed by Forestry Commission Wales has been managed by a new Welsh Government body, Natural Resources Wales.
  3. Britain’s woodland cover had declined to an estimated 4-6 per cent by the beginning of the 20th century after thousands of years of forest removal for fuel, timber, industry, farming and settlements. It has been expanding since the 1920s as successive governments have encouraged new forest planting. Reforestation programmes initially focused on re-establishing a strategic reserve of home-grown timber. However, policy has evolved to focus on creating a multi-purpose woodland resource also encompassing environmental protection (including climate change mitigation and adaptation), wildlife conservation, public recreation and health, and community development.
  4. The NFI is based on measurement of all rural and urban woodland areas of 0.5ha or greater in size. Its predecessor, the National Inventory of Woodland & Trees (NIWT), compiled in the late 1990s, measured only the total area of woodlands of 2ha or greater, and estimated the total area of rural woodlands smaller than 2ha, based on a sample.
  5. The current NFI is being compiled over the five years 2009 to 2014 from satellite imagery, aerial photography and field surveys; Forestry Commission, NRW and owners’ records; and data analysis. The full suite of NFI outputs will include reports on woodland area, health and condition; timber, carbon, biomass and species content; various woodland uses and facilities; and forecasts of how some of these aspects could change over the coming decades under different scenarios. It enables the Forestry Commission, Natural Resources Wales and other environmental, land and infrastructure authorities to track changes over time – crucially, in the health and condition of trees, woods and forests - and provides essential, up-to-date information on which to base advice, guidance, planning and management decisions.
  6. Grown in Britain is working to create a sustainable future for our woodlands and forests. It recently launched an assurance scheme for British forests and wood products. Visit or
    contact for more information.
  7. To convert hectares to acres, multiply by 2.47.


  • Forestry Commission GB/England – Stuart Burgess 0117 372 1073, or Katrina Podlewska 0117 906 6030;
  • Forestry Commission Scotland – Steve Williams 0131 314 6508 or Paul Munro 0131 314 6507;
  • Natural Resources Wales – Curig Jones, 02920 466251.