Covid-19 News


Non-statutory advice to Small Woods members on visiting and working in woodlands following the updated government advice on movement restrictions, first published 24th March, last updated 5th January 2021.

Like most other individuals and organisations, Small Woods are listening carefully to the Government’s advice. We are also in contact with Government officials on the implications of the advice. What they tell us is the advice is fluid, however, we will aim to keep our media feeds up-to-date, as we become aware of new advice.

This advice has been assembled using government advice and requirements, best practice as shared by other organisations and responses to questions raised by members. 

We have once more moved back into lockdown across England, Northern Ireland and Scotland and remain at alert level 4 across Wales

Social Distancing stays in place throughout the whole of the UK. The fact that this is a deadly virus has not changed and the reasons behind keeping a safe distance from people from outside your household remains essential. The purpose of staying alert is to reduce opportunities for virus transmission for your protection and that of everyone you might come into contact with. Social Distancing is therefore likely to be a long-term feature of how work is done and lives are lived. This needs to be borne in mind by anyone who is planning work and activities in woodlands.

Working in your woodland

Safe working guidance providing practical information on working and managing risk for the forestry sector has been published by FISA and can be found here.

You must maintain social distancing in any workplace (including outdoor workplaces) wherever possible. This applies to any woodland work and can be applied in most if not all situations.

Government guidance goes on: “Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff.

Mitigating actions include:

  • Further increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
  • Keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
  • Using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • Using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
  • Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others)

How to interpret government advice for Small Woodland owners:

  • Visits for exercise are encouraged, as long as you are can follow current advice about social distancing and travel (guidance relating to travel restrictions can be found following the links for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales above)
  • Be sure to stay distant from anyone else
  • Do not travel in a car with anyone other than a member of your household
  • You can carry out work in your woodland but do not share tools, equipment or food with others

Further information relating to forestry can be found in the following links:

Forestry Commission Operational Update

Forestry and Land Scotland Covid-19 Information

NRW Covid-19 Changes to Services

Confor: Covid-19 Forestry and Wood Information Hub

If you feel there is a danger that you may be challenged while going about your necessary tasks and duties in your woodland, the Small Woodland Supply Chain Letter of Comfort may still be helpful to explain the need for the work you are doing. It is an interpretation of Government guidance, which is intended to support the work of woodland managers, foresters and the related supply chain.

The small woodland supply chain letters of comfort can be found by following the relevant link:

Scotland: Small Woodland Owners Letter of Comfort Scotland

Wales: Small Woodland Owners Letter of Comfort Wales

England : Small Woodland Owners Letter of Comfort England

The Known Risks:

Contracting the virus – it is impossible to be 100% certain that you will not come into contact with other people and the virus could be on your gate post, or even within your wood where people may have had access, whether legal or otherwise.

Staying safe in woods – Social distancing may be difficult, as many woods have access through them and along their boundaries via Rights of Way. Even practicing social distancing, given the length of time that the virus can survive on surfaces, access points are a risk. Even our neighbouring landowners may legitimately be touching gates and stiles. You also cannot guarantee against trespass.

Sharing the virus – you may be carrying the virus without knowing it and risk passing it on to others, especially the vulnerable.

Injury – Woodland management work also carries the risk of injury and this is not the time to be adding to the load being experienced by the NHS.

Everyone will have to decide what constitutes an ‘essential’ journey. Fundamentally it is up to each person to interpret the rules for their own circumstances, with wider society in mind, as everyone’s situation is different.

Useful self-test – “What would a nurse advise?”:

Woodland owners and managers are used to being very self-reliant and are used to assessing risks primarily from our own point of view. Coronavirus and the restrictions that relate to it are different. We are being asked to behave in a way that reduces risk for society as a whole. We are all very good at justifying our own actions, by looking at how their implications affect ourselves. A clinician takes a view of the whole population and they would advise on the basis that we all act to reduce the incidence of transmission of this disease.

Is there any risk you could contract or share the virus?

The point is not whether there is a justification for the journey itself. Rather, if there is any danger that you will come into contact with other people, and the journey isn’t essential for reasons of human health, you should not make that journey. It is likely that many people already have the virus, but are not aware of it, because it is a mild case, or they are in the early stages. The cold, hard fact is also that you could pass it on or pick it up from a gate or a stile

We appreciate that many jobs that had been planned for the next few weeks will now go by the wayside, but our society now faces a greater issue and we now need to act to save those who are more vulnerable as well as enabling the NHS to continue to cope.

Some general practical advice to help keep everyone safe:

  • It is even more important to follow bio-security protocols than ever. Wash all equipment and PPE, particularly gloves and boots.
  • Take sanitiser with you so you can sanitise your hands regularly and anything you might touch.
  • Sanitise anything like gate latches and locks that you handle in order to access
  • Wash or sanitise your hands after using any access points, eg, gates or stiles.
  • Don’t work in groups of more than two. If you would normally work with someone from a different household then observe safe social distancing rules at all times. Ideally, work out a timetable so you can visit the wood separately.
  • Avoid public transport if possible. Instead walk, run, cycle or drive to your wood, either on your own or with one other member of your household.
  • Do not pick up anyone on the way or travel with them.
  • If you meet anyone, then maintain safe social distancing protocols (stay at least two metres apart).
  • Don’t make anyone a cup of tea.
  • Don’t share tools.
  • If you take your dog(s) with you, ensure to keep them in sight and under genuinely close control. They could encounter someone you don’t see and become unconscious vectors of the disease.
  • Wash or sanitise your hands thoroughly before and after eating food, and when you get home.
  • Use disposable gloves wherever possible.
  • Read and use FISA’s guidance on safe working before considering work in your woodlands

Best practice advice could change, and we will update this guidance when we have new advice.


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Small Woods are the UK organisation for woodland owners, workers, supporters, and social foresters. We stand for living, sustainable woodlands alive with wildlife, people and work. Managed and used well, small woodlands are vital to thriving local economies, wildlife, and the health and wellbeing of local communities, as well as hugely valuable in the fight against climate change.

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Small Woods offer members a wide range of training, events and support designed to help you to make decisions about woodland management, whether you are managing it for wood fuel, timber, wildlife or recreation, or indeed a mixture.  We aim to help, whatever your motivation or stage of development.