If you own or are hoping to own, woodland that you intend to open to the public, understanding how to care for the space and the responsibilities you face as a woodland owner will help set you off on the right track. From ensuring you understand your responsibilities and getting the right cover and support, to caring for the woodland itself, there are a number of things you can do to really get the most out of the space while caring for the flora and fauna on your land.
Understand Your Responsibilities
As the owner of woodland, you have a number of responsibilities and regulations to stick to in order for the land to remain safe and legal. Generally speaking, you’ll have very few obligations but the ones you do have revolve mostly around ensuring that your woodland is safe, particularly around public roads and footpaths. You should have any trees growing along roadsides or along paths inspected annually to ensure that none of them pose a threat to passers-by. You also need to be well aware of the wildlife likely to be taking root in your woodland, particularly badgers and bats, as these habitats legally must be protected.
Get Insurance Cover
Woodland insurance is a must for any owner. While woodland is certainly beautiful and enjoyable for you and the public, it can also be dangerous and having the right insurance policies in place will help to protect you, your land and visitors. Falling branches, injury from dangerous trees or roots or even damage to vehicles caused by any of the above can all lead to claims made against you by members of the public. Having the right woodland insurance in place will provide financial support for legal fees, compensation and more to protect you and your land in the event of a claim.
Consider Third Party Support
With the sheer amount of woodland across the UK, much of it privately owned, there are plenty of third party groups and organisations available to provide you with the support and advice you need to properly manage woodland. The Royal Forestry Society, for example, has a number of online resources, publications and a members group you can join that offer support and information when you need it. You can also keep in touch with other woodland owners for tips and advice on looking after woodland, whether you open it up to the public or not.
Woodland Doesn’t Require Much Care
Generally speaking, most woodland is self-sufficient, pretty much taking care of itself. However, if you are opening the land to the public, there are a few things you can do to keep the land in the best condition possible and encourage it to thrive. From keeping on top of thinning when it’s needed, to coppicing, managing open spaces and caring for the wildlife, there’s plenty you can do to encourage the natural progression of your woodland.
- Thinning – Just like any plant, trees can get sick or unruly and while you don’t want to over-prune the woodland, having some level of thinning can help to encourage the stronger, healthier plants and trees to grow. For example, weak or diseased trees could be taking valuable nutrients away from healthy ones, or diseases may spread from one tree to another. Thinning of branches can also help to encourage sunlight into areas of the wood where dense shade may have stunted the growth of some plants and shrubs. Be careful when thinning, as you may disturb the habitat of wildlife. Carefully assess each area and understand that, in some cases, leaving it alone may be best.
- Coppicing – Coppicing is the process of periodically cutting back trees to ground level, allowing them to sprout new steps from the stumps and re-grow. This process not only increases wood yield for those looking to sell but also rejuvenates the tree and increases its lifespan. The process can also be used alongside rides and glades to create more open space.
- Dealing With Dead Trees – In a lot of cases, dead trees don’t need to be dealt with. In fact, leaving them is often encouraged as they can offer habitats for a number of different animals. However, if you do have dead trees in your woodland, you need to ensure that you’re keeping an eye on them and their quality, particularly when close to pathways and public areas. If the tree looks like it’s become brittle and close to breaking, it may be best to cut it back or fell it.
- Managing Open Spaces – Open spaces are not only ideal for the public but are also great for creating woodland edge habitats, where a number of wildlife choose to live. The mix of sunlight and exposure, as well as places to shelter, makes this ideal for certain species that need the diversity. You should think about keeping these areas well-cared for with annual cutting for short grass areas, and three-year cutting for longer grass. These open spaces will also encourage animals like butterflies and a number of small mammals due to the light access.
- Caring For Wildlife – The wildlife in your woodland is quite possibly one of the best parts of owning it, however, it does come with a few rules and regulations. In the UK, you need to adhere to regulations that are designed to protect wildlife species and habitats in woodland, particularly when it comes to any forestry operations. You may need a wildlife management licence to prevent any penalties. It’s also worth checking the Protected Species Checklist to determine whether you have the right measures in place to protect endangered or protected wildlife.
For help with woodland insurance or for information on how land insurance could help protect you and your land, we’re on hand to help. Simply get in touch with a member of the team at Ashburnham Insurance to find out more, today.