News, stories and reports from Forestry Commission Scotland and the National Forest Estate

Celebrating 10 years of our Woods In and Around Towns programme

We are celebrating 10 successful years of our Woods In and Around Towns WIAT) initiative. This innovative programme aims to improve the quality of life for people living and working in urban Scotland by making woodlands more welcoming, particularly in some of Scotland's most socially deprived communities.

Some of the key achievements include:

  • nearly 12,000 hectares of urban woodland brought into active management - that’s an area almost the size of Glasgow!;
  • around 2,000 hectares of new urban woodland created;
  • 75 hectares of vacant and derelict land restored to woodland;
  • 4,500 hectares of WIAT woodland added to the National Forest Estate; and
  • nearly 600 kilometres of paths created or upgraded - that’s the distance from here to London.

Castlemilk

One of the sites to benefit from WIAT support is Castlemilk Woods, in the south east of Glasgow. The woodland wasn’t used much due to fears about anti-social behaviour, the poor quality of the footpaths and the neglected feel of the woodland. External funding in 2005 helped produce a woodland management plan and deliver some of the initial physical improvements to the woods.

The potential of the woodlands to bring about a positive change in the local community was recognised with the formation of a partnership in 2010 between local housing associations, Glasgow City Council, the Jeely Piece Club and Forestry Commission Scotland. This successful partnership led to the employment of a dedicated Castlemilk Community Woodland Officer, who has delivered over 800 different community events to over 15,000 people. The events have ranged from health walks, Forest School and the Branching Out Programme to Shakespeare in the Park, owl days and pumpkin festivals. These events have helped challenge old perceptions that Castlemilk was simply an unsafe woodland cut through within a housing scheme, to a more positive one that sees Castlemilk as a destination. The woodland improvements and employment opportunities have fostered a growing sense of ownership and pride, resulting in a marked reduction in anti-social behavior.

Health walk

Employability Project

The Cassiltoun Housing Association successfully applied to the Central Scotland Green Network Development Fund (CSGN) to deliver an employability project. This gives local unemployed people opportunities to gain environmental management skills whilst making improvements to the local area. In total 80 trainees have completed the programme with a third of these coming from workless households. Over 50% have gone onto paid employment.

Employability group

Our continued commitment to WIAT

We will continue our commitment to this important initiative through a fourth phase of the programme that runs until 2020 and aims to "support the creation and management of woods to improve the quality of life for people living and working in Scotland’s towns and cities."

Key to this will be:

  • Bringing urban woodlands into active management to benefit communities;
  • Creating new urban woodlands to benefit communities; and
  • Supporting programmes and activities that help people use and enjoy their woods.

This short film features local people talking about the benefits of having woods on their doorstep.