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Woods for shelter

Throughout history humans have attempted to modify the climatic conditions affecting their crops and animals in order to increase productivity and comfort. In particular, trees have been planted in woods and belts to provide shelter and shade. Britain is one of the windiest countries in the world so there is a long history of using trees for shelter in exposed parts of the British Isles. The agricultural improvers of the 18th and 19th centuries recognised the importance of shelterbelts in such a climate and we continue to benefit from their legacy. Farmers still recognise the value of trees for shelter and the agricultural and forestry departments continue to encourage the establishment and management of farm woodlands for this objective.

Forestry Commission Information Note 81 The principles of using woods for shelter points to the crucial need to understand the reasons for creating shelter in order to determine the most effective shelter wood design and management. The Note describes the physical principles that determine the impact of woodlands on shelter provision and the importance of woodland height, porosity, width, length, orientation and shape on the area and level of shelter. Three generic shelter wood types are identified (‘windshield’, ‘windbreak’ and ‘hybrid’) together with their most appropriate applications.

The Information Note will be supported by additional information on these pages about the role of woods for shelter. Topics currently in preparation are:

  • Designing shelter plantings
  • Designing shelter plantings
  • Protecting grazing livestock
  • Protecting newly born lambs and calves
  • Protecting crops and grassland

Enquiries: Max Hislop