There has been a "significant decrease" in the share of the population visiting forests or woodlands over recent years, according research by the Forestry Commission.
Only 56 per cent of respondents to its Public Opinion of Forestry survey this year said they had made such visits "in the last few years", compared with two-thirds in 2011 and 2013 and more than three-quarters in 2007 and 2009.
Of those who had not visited, one-third "were not interested". Lack of time was the second most common reason. Distance, not having a car and bad weather were also cited. Among those who had visited woodlands, lack of time was the most widely given reason for not visiting more often.
Visits to woodlands in the countryside have fallen over recent years, while visits to woodlands in and around towns have increased. While one-third of respondents were unable to name the owner of the wood they had visited most recently, 22 per cent said it belonged to the National Trust, 17 per cent said local authority, 16 per cent Forestry Commission, three per cent Woodland Trust and two per cent said community-owned.
Only eight per cent were National Trust members, while just one per cent held a Forestry Commission England Discovery Pass. The commission has conducted biennial surveys of public attitudes since 1995.
Commission's findings - Positive opinions of woodland sites
Respondents may be visiting woodlands less often but they still have positive views on them:
- 89 per cent agreed "they are places where people can have fun and enjoy themselves".
- 88 per cent said they are important for wildlife.
- 83 per cent said they make areas nicer places to live.
However, all these figures have declined since the late 2000s, which appears to have marked a peak in public awareness and involvement in public woodland.
Involvement in voluntary tree-related work also shows a decline since that time, along with a belief that more trees should be planted.