DEFRA and the Forestry Commission are currently working towards publishing  ambitions for woodland access. Following engagement with stakeholders priorities are being reviewed with a view to identifying the policy, guidance, and behavioural changes needed to improve access to new and existing woodlands.

Through the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) and Countryside Stewardship, FC is continuing to provide funding to landowners to create access to their woodlands. On the 22 June, FC announced that "we have increased flexibility to apply for the Public Access Additional Contribution" (under EWCO), allowing those outside of the spatial targeting area to apply if a range of conditions are met which seek to ensure connectivity with the public highway and other forms of statutory access (ProW and open access land).

Some useful research that has also been published highlighting the value to which the nation benefits from accessing woodlands. Research from Forest Research shows that regular visits to woodlands saves the NHS in the region of £141 million in treatment costs associated with mental health illnesses, including visits to GPs, drug prescriptions, inpatient care, social services and the number of days lost to mental health issues.

Forestry England has recorded the highest ever number of visits to the nation’s forests across England over the last year. An incredible 363 million visits were estimated to have taken place – an increase of 67 million (over 20% per cent) compared with the previous year’s estimate. This is the second consecutive year of such a substantial increase, showing that connection to nature has continued to be vital to people since Covid lockdowns.