Learning Lessons – not part of the web site

Only some people read reports

Why double tree cover?

This is a question that comes up which needs a ready answer. It is perhaps motivated not so much by an opposition to doubling tree cover but a fear that the trees are just going to go anywhere in an unplanned way which is a valid concern.

Why do we need more maps?

This is a question that comes up more frequently than the previous one. It is also more difficult to answer. In particular people have seen the West of England Nature Network maps which do look very nice but which are quite difficult to understand to the point some don’t seem to make sense. This is compounded by the Forestry Commission “Low Risk” maps which give a very different picture and which are even more difficult to understand. This makes explaining why we need more maps difficult because it is necessary to explain the difficult to understand maps. The Friends of the Earth approach and the Forestry Commission approach superficially sound very similar but they are actually quite different. The difference is hidden within a probabilistic version of Agricultural Land Classification maps and their reworking using a soils information that are not in the public domain. This difference has only just come to light and still needs further explanation and discussion. These differences need to be better understood by making them transparent. This is important because the CCC’s woodland estimates are based on the Forestry Commission maps.

Talking about Woodlands

Discussions about woodland can be hampered by definitions and the sometimes confusing differences between common parlance and the NFI definitions of woodland and small woodland. Further, woodland in all its forms varies greatly from parish to parish and people may have fixed ideas, quite understandably based on their own experience. People generally know how much ‘woodland’ there is in the UK or England but their perception of how those percentages relate to what is in the landscape may be quite personal and may not match up. The best way to overcome this is obviously to spell out the NFI definitions and to use them with that understanding. It seems the full set of definitions, at least for mapping purposes, is most readily available if you refer to the NFI’s small-woodlands documentation rather than the woodlands documentation. The web pages try to do this by bringing these definitions together.

Finding Land Owners

The initial independent idea of the group seemed to be to try and map out all of the land owners in a parish. Despite having already made the opportunity woodland map of Chew Valley it wasn’t necessarily in a form that was particularly useful in a PDF without other cues to help identify the possible owner. The main cues are the roads, buildings and land boundaries, the latter of which is not a readily available open data set, indeed it is the one that Ordnance Survey closely protects.

The idea of not locating all land owners in the parish and just concentrating on the ones whose land intersect with the opportunity woodland didn’t seem to be immediately obvious but was well received. This targeted approach is the same as that used in the anti-fracking campaign of just focusing on those parishes in the appropriate geological zone rather than trying to cover all parishes. However, finding land owners is more convoluted that selecting parishes. However, there should be efficiency gains that can be made but saying the right thing to the right land owner depending on where their land is. “You need to concentrate on woodland creation on steep slopes” or “You need concentrate on silvoarable and have mixed cropping with nut trees”.

An initial attempt was hastily made to match up the woodland opportunity zone with title boundaries from the Land Registry. These data are openly available but are licensed under the Open Government Licence and are effectively layered making it somewhat opaque what you can and can’t do with it. However a trial area was tested to see if the data would be useful. Because of the great variation in land parcel size and the long INSPIRE identifier numbers it is difficult to make a paper map of a whole parish that is readily legible. A version of the data set is available online on an ESRI site but it is not clear how the licensing for this site actually works. This is a web map service that can be used to dynamically overlay the parcel boundaries onto the opportunity woodland maps but strictly speaking they shouldn’t be distributed. This situation is something of a nonsense. In the intervening time the licence has actually changed and been somewhat liberalised. NB, need to ask Guy about this as he Tweeted about it. However the group had already said that the Land Registry data in the test area were not that useful anyway as the result was variable.

A compromise has been to make a somewhat more general set of parish maps that include one with a monochrome satellite layer from Google to provide the field boundary cue. The licensing for this is a slightly grey area but the Google copyright is burned into the images. It is thought that these maps do bring together the opportunity woodland layer with other information to be sufficiently useful. Currently awaiting feedback about this version.

Another approach taken in another parish has been to simply speak with neighbours in the knowledge that the opportunity woodland zone snakes around the hillside on the steep slopes. This has been quite successful in identifying and communicating with a number of potentially interested and adjacent land owners.

The final version of the maps is still to be released and includes for each parish information on the area of existing and potential woodland and the area of both arable and pasture land. It is hoped that this will open out the discussion with land owners into the appropriate balance of woodland and agroforestry in a parish. This is potentially a powerful tool for engagement but is not yet quite complete. It is possibly a good outcome of a rather roundabout process. This process has been rather hampered by not being able to dedicate time to it early on and also for the people in the parishes by the Corona virus lockdown.

Soils & Native Woodland Maps

These data are not available in the public domain. The native woodland map would be very useful indeed for parishes but an approach to Cranfield on this proved fruitless.

This also relates to the Ag Land Classification map which has old climate data baked into it. This needs updating with climate scenarios.


The EA LiDAR data is very powerful for mapping small woods and hedgerows. Hedges are very narrow things but the LiDAR is sufficiently detailed to detect them. There is a big jump between the 50m woodland opportunity maps and the LiDAR hedgerow maps (Publow-Pensford) which are 2,500 times more detailed.

Paying for the woodland

Paying for public goods is going to mean talking about ecosystem services and carbon (amongst other things). This seems to be a general grey-area but will be critical going forward. We have made a start on this already. The time frame to 2030 or even 2050 is rather short when considering carbon. We need a 100 year environment plan rather than the 25 years that people are generally thinking about.