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Overview

This project will gather evidence to better understand the social and cultural value of Trees outside Woodlands in peri-urban and rural areas (ToWPUR). ToWPUR make up almost one fifth of tree cover in Great Britain yet remain an understudied part of English treescapes.

The England Tree Planting Programme (ETPP) looks set to dramatically change the rate of woodland creation and expansion in coming years. By addressing the evidence gap around public values and ToWPUR, this research will support the ambitions of the ETPP while feeding into a variety of policy aims relating to the societal benefits and impact of tree-planting.

Research objectives

  1. Better understand the social and cultural value of ToWPUR amongst a range of publics, especially in relation to tree planting and establishment.
  2. Build an interdisciplinary understanding of the value of ToWPUR through close working with the project’s natural science counterpart (The ecological function of Trees outside Woodland).
  3. Provide evidence relating to social and cultural values to inform policy, research, and management of ToWPUR.

Latest updates

This is year one of a 2.5 year project and is set to finish in March 2025.

We are currently summarising existing evidence and forming the research methodology. We are pooling existing evidence using a variety of interdisciplinary methods, including:

  • A literature review covering the social and cultural value of trees outside of woodlands
  • Secondary data analysis from a partner project that investigated public engagement with nature during the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Working with an external contractor to develop outputs that contribute an arts and humanities perspective and demonstrate the importance of this when considering the social and cultural values of ToWPUR.

This evidence will be used to develop a prototype value framework that will be tested in the next stage of the project.

Treelands Audio

This three episode miniseries is part of an exploration of social and cultural values around Trees outside Woodland in peri-urban and rural areas. The content was developed by Lestari in association with Stellaria Media in 2023 on behalf of Forest Research and was funded by Defra as part of the Nature for Climate Fund.

Trees Outside Woodland and Us

The Tree Council ran a communication campaign in 2024 promoting the project’s arts and humanities outputs including an interactive version of the photo essays and a webinar featuring a lively discussion between three arts practitioners.

Our Involvement

Forest Research is leading this research project and working in collaboration with Defra.

The Project Advisory Group includes:

  • Defra
  • Tree Council
  • Arboricultural Association
  • Welsh Government
  • Scottish Forestry
  • Natural England
  • Forestry Commission
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Leeds
Funding & partners
  • Defra logoFunded by DEFRA under the Nature for Climate Fund in support of the England Tree Planting Programme.
Table of Contents

Related content

Publications

Trees and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic

A secondary analysis of data from an online, UK representative survey, in-depth interviews and photo elicitation was used to investigate the terms people use to describe trees and places with trees, the importance of trees to perceptions of naturalness and nature connection, and whether trees were associated with greater wellbeing.

Publications

Trees Outside of Woodland: An exploration of social and cultural values

A photo essay based on interviews with 16 arts and humanities practitioners and academics, focusing on their relationship with Trees Outside of Woodland. Key themes that emerge include childhood memories and experiences, emotional connections and the interconnectedness of humans and nature.

Research

Valuing Non-Woodland Trees

This work helps us to understand the overall value of our treescape, in which non-woodland trees play a critical role. We define non-woodland trees as single trees in urban and rural places, groups of trees covering less than 0.1 hectares, and small woods covering less than 0.5 hectares.

Status completed

Research

Public Perceptions of Urban Trees

How do contemporary Great British attitudes to urban trees vary between locality, individuals and communities with different socio-demographic backgrounds? Forest Research aims to investigate this through a rapid evidence review, a national questionnaire and a series of focus groups.

Status current

Research

Cultural value of trees, woods and forests

This page summarises findings and recommendations from a Forest Research study into how participation in woodland events and activities generates cultural value. The study also reviewed how woodland stakeholders measure this value and how it influences their plans and decisions.

Status completed