International Day of Forests

By | Category: Travel news

part of the National Forest Way

Today – according to the United Nations – is the International Day of Forests. The idea is “to raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests and of trees outside forests.”

Forests cover about a third of the land mass of our planet but in the UK it is only about 13% according to the Forestry Commission. In England forests and woodland cover about 10%, 15% in Wales, 18% in Scotland and 8% in Northern Ireland. That equates to about 3.16 million hectares yet last year we planted just 6,000 hectares yet the tourism and leisure possibilities grow even faster if we had the locations.

In Ireland, the amount of woodland and forestry is even less than the UK at about 11%.

Leave aside the argument for more wooded areas to soak up the carbon dioxide that is thrown into the atmosphere and how much more of it would be absorbed if we had more woodland.

Just from the potential tourism possibilities would suggest that more forests would encourage more visitors. The appeal though, should not just be for walking, cycling and off-roading. Center Parcs took pieces of forest land and made them tourist sites that combine the landscape with other attractions not normally connected with woodland. With five sites, occupancy rates are high suggesting that there is a strong market for this.

Forest Holidays, part of the Forestry Commission, plough back £2 million per annum into forestry and generate £16 million for local economies where their sites are. A new entrant, Landal GreenParks came into the UK from the Netherlands. All of their sites in the Uk are in woodlands.

In Ireland, Avondale, in Co Wicklow; Gougane Barra, Lough Key in Co Roscommon and Killykeen, Co Cavan, are just a few of the places that attract visitors in large numbers.

The argument can be made that linking forests with tourism works. The problem is that growing a forest takes time. It isn’t something that will be available tomorrow. In twenty years perhaps. And what commercial venture is going to tie up money for that length of time. The growth of forestry tourism may only lie with the Forestry Commission.

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