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History of British woodlands

We like to think that enjoying woodlands is a key aspect of what it means to be British - wrapping up warm for a walk through the woods before returning for a hearty Sunday lunch by a fireplace, with a cup of tea (or something stronger).

Here at Black Dog Forestry, we love the sense of wonder that comes from enjoying woodlands. Being surrounded by trees which are decades old puts small things into perspective!

Interestingly, Britain has not always been dappled with woodlands. Stepping back 12,500 years or so, Britain was mostly treeless. Wildwoods sprung up when Britain was still physically connected to the continent of Europe, and the wildwoods became home to deer, squirrels, foxes and the other animals we so strongly associate with Britain today. Woodlands which have existed continuously since 1600 are known as “ancient woodlands” and cover some 2.5% of the UK.


As agriculture developed, wildwoods were cleared to make space for farming wheat and barley. As centuries passed, the shipbuilding industry came to rely heavily on timber beams and woodlands sprung up across the country. In the 17th Century, the idea of establishing tree plantations in Britain was promoted by John Evelyn which was the start of the practice we now know as forestry.


In comparison to the rest of Europe, the UK has one of the lowest proportions of woodlands - just 13%. In comparison to Finland which has 73% woodland.

The UK should be taking a leading role in tackling global emissions and new forestry is a key way of fighting global warming. Suggestions are that the target date of 2050 is too far away, and should be reduced to 2030, meaning the time for planting and preparing is now.


The UK needs 1.5 billion more trees - yes, billion, according to Government climate change advisors. Trees offer the dual benefit of absorbing carbon dioxide as well as restoring native wildlife.

Planting trees is a key aspect of forestry, and something we manage as part of our relationship with land owners. We are careful to ensure the yield extracted from the forest does not take away from the base of the forest itself, to ensure the longevity of the woods.

Here in West Sussex, nearly 19% of the land area is woodland with coverage increasing in recent years. Which is great news, especially when it means we’ll be able to keep wrapping up warm and having an adventure in the woods.

And this is our last blog before Christmas. Despite a turbulent year, make sure you have yourselves a wonderful end to the year. Here's to 2021.

It’s a fascinating world.

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