Sylva has had a superb response to the British Woodlands survey 2012 thanks in large part to wide publicity from partner organisations. The survey has now been closed and we are about to start the process of analysing the data received. These are just a few early broad-level observations.
Responses were received from 2592 people, 60% or whom identified themselves as owners of woodland (15% were acting on behalf of owners). The majority of these owned woodland as part of a privately-owned farm.
Respondents came from all regions of the UK, but with highest input from those in southern England. The size of the woodlands varied widely, from fewer than 5 ha to well over 10,000 ha (with an average of 170 ha).
People reported a range of motivations for owning woodland, with personal pleasure and landscape conservation just topping timber production, which was, however, reported by almost a third of respondents as a key motivation. Woodlands had been in the family of respondents for widely varying lengths of time, from the 15th Century to 2012, but on average they had been owned by the same family for 70 years.
Although fewer than 10% of woodlands were covered by an UKWAS compliant management plan, 50% of those who responded reported that they had a management plan, and a detailed map of their woodlands, although relatively few had any inventory data. Relatively few woodlands were certified (by any scheme) and there was perhaps a surprising lack of lack of knowledge about certification an scepticism about the benefits it can bring.
The long-term trend of declining profitability of woodlands is continuing, with large numbers of owners reporting losses over the last 5 years. There were, however, pockets of economically successful woodlands amongst the often disturbing stories of real hardship.
The considerable richness in the data will be unpicked over the coming months and discussed in full at the British Woodlands 2012 Conference in Oxford on December 11th, to which all are welcome. Please register here for this one-day meeting