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What stops people using woodlands for physical exercise and well-being?


Access to woodlands and greenspace is beneficial for mental and physical health and well-being. But many groups of people fail to visit and enjoy this natural environment. Forest Research interviewed people from under-represented community groups to find out what prevents them from visiting nearby woods and greenspace (four urban/peri-urban sites and one remote location on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula).

Key findings and recommendations


  • Lack of knowledge: people do not know what their local woods have to offer
  • Perceptions: people are put off from visiting because of a site’s poor reputation, which may not reflect reality
  • Access rights: for locations further afield, people are unsure on their rights of access and do not want to go where they are not welcome
  • Motivation: many people from target groups are not motivated by the idea of accessing woodlands – they lack the habit and do not expect a positive experience
  • Experience matters: ‘taster’ activities can provide the motivation to repeat the experience if the activity can be fitted into everyday lives
  • Physical access: access to a wood has a big impact on who uses it – if the woodland is not connected to a community by an off-road path, it is effectively inaccessible for pedestrian use
  • Safety: some of the concerns for personal safety were also defined by the cultural expectations of belonging to a particular group

Complexity: barriers to access are a complex combination of many factors, but are most affected by the local context and the life stage of users


Funders and partners

Commissioned and funded by Forestry Commission Scotland.




Liz O’Brien

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Liz O'Brien

Principal Social Scientist