Woodland opportunity mapping

Where could we create woodland in England?

Many of the UK’s ancient woodlands, forests, trees and hedgerows have been destroyed over the past few hundred years. The UK today has just 13% woodland cover, compared to an EU average of 38%.

In recent times, community groups like Darlington Friends of the Earth and Oxford Climate Action have fought to protect and expand our woodland. But we recognise that it’s hard to lobby your council for more trees if you’re not armed with data and a feasible plan.

Friends of the Earth has teamed up with mapping expert Tim Richards to draw up an "opportunity map" of areas in England where you and your group could plant new woodlands.

In order to preserve good agricultural land, protect peat bogs (and other wildlife sites), the map excludes many areas (see exclusions below). Use the woodland mapping tool to lobby your council for more trees


The areas shaded above show opportunity areas for new woodland. Whether they’re converted to woodland or not must be decided locally. And before any tree planting or woodland creation happens, it’s vital to carry out an ecological survey to ensure rare wildlife is not harmed. It’s important also to consider whether the land in question is suitable for natural regeneration – where trees can re-seed without the need for planting – or whether some planting is needed, to provide a local seed source.

We'd love to hear how you're using this resource and any issues you've spotted with the data set.

Three key ingredients

Creating new woodlands is only one part of the puzzle. Our urban areas can have benefit from many more street trees. And experts at Friends of the Earth have been working with farmers to identify good agricultural land that can incorporate trees in hedgerows and as shelter for animals (this is known as agroforestry).

With more woodland, street trees and agroforestry, we’re confident that England can double tree cover. Will you and your group help achieve this goal?

Exclusions from map

We excluded the following areas from the woodland opportunities map:

  • Water bodies and existing woodland. 
  • Designated wildlife sites (like Sites of Special Scientific Interest), Priority Habitats, and semi-improved grasslands, because we don’t want to harm nature.
  • The highest quality good agricultural land (known as Grade 1 and 2) – we need this land to grow crops.  
  • The poorest quality agricultural land (Grade 5), almost all of which is carbon storing peat bogs. Planting trees on these would release more carbon than the trees would soak up.  
  • A portion of Grade 4 land. Grade 4 is poor quality agricultural land mostly used for pasture and is suitable for tree planting (particularly if we reduce meat consumption), but some of this land is used for crop growing. 
  • Grade 3 is split into 3a and 3b, with 3a the better quality. Some of 3b is used for crop growing and some is used for pasture. We excluded all of Grade 3a land and the areas of 3b that is used for crop growing.  

What we were left with after this process was most of Grade 4 agricultural land and much of Grade 3b agricultural land. We also excluded more of the Grade 3b land, specifically if the land had been used as pasture for some years. Some of this land could be important for flowers and butterflies (much of it might not be). Land that’s good for plants and insects should be properly identified and designated as a protected site, but sadly not all of it is. We have been very cautious.

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