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This chapter contains statistics on:

  • the number and profile of visits to all woodlands from household surveys; and
  • the number and profile of visits to Forestry England/ Forestry and Land Scotland/ Natural Resources Wales/ Forest Service woodlands from on-site surveys and administrative sources.

The statistics in this chapter need to be viewed in the context of broader changes in the UK population, with an increasing and ageing population.

More recently, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an increase in visits to the outdoors. Initial studies are providing some information on these changes, but these have not been incorporated into this release yet. For further information, see:

Geographical coverage for social statistics varies. Estimates are presented at country level and, where possible, UK or GB totals are included. Further information on the data sources and methodology used to compile the figures is provided in the Sources chapter.

Most of the statistics presented in this chapter have been previously released by other organisations. The latest year figures for day visitors to Forest Service sites in Northern Ireland are published for the first time in this release. Figures for earlier years have not been revised from those previously published. For further details on revisions, see the Social section of the Sources chapter.

The frequency with which the estimates in this chapter are updated varies depending on the data sources used.  Whilst some of the information presented is now several years old, it represents the latest available data and has been included to provide a more rounded picture of the social use of forests in the UK.

Further information on the advantages and disadvantages of household surveys and of on-site surveys is provided in the Social section of the Sources chapter.

A copy of all social tables can be accessed in spreadsheet format from the Data Downloads web page at

Key findings

The main findings are:

  • There were an estimated 368 million visits to woodlands in England in 2018-19.
  • Around one half (49%) of visits to woodlands in England in 2018-19 were within 2 miles.
  • “Health and exercise” and “fresh air or to enjoy pleasant weather” were important reasons for visits to woodlands in England and Wales.
  • Walking was the most common activity on visits to woodland in England.
  • Around 465 thousand people visited Forest Service sites where a charge is made in Northern Ireland in 2019-20.


FS2020: Social

PDF, 0.46 MB

Chapter 6 text in PDF format

FS2020: Social tables


Chapter 6 tables in Microsoft Excel format

FS2020: Social tables


Chapter 6 tables in OpenDocument Spreadsheet format

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