Forestry Commission Access Review Toolkit

A forest in spring with masses of bluebells

Our work with the Forestry Commission is an example of how we can equip an organisation with skills and tools so it can undertake its own site audits. Instead of carrying out individual audits, we build a bespoke toolkit and provide training so the techniques and expertise are bedded in the organisation. We have worked in a similar way with the National Trust, Kent County Council and Sheffield City Council.

Aims of the toolkit

The toolkit addresses key questions. How can forest recreation sites respond to the requirements of the Equality Act 2010? How can they be made inviting, accessible and rewarding for everyone? If the highlight features are adrenaline-rich activities, how will people know they can also visit these places for a gentle stroll through a forest, or to enjoy a riverside picnic with their friends? And when resources are limited, how do forest managers work out which access improvements should take priority?

Working with some of the Forestry Commission's key recreation sites - Westonbirt, Grizedale, Alice Holt and Sherwood - we undertook site reviews, ran sensory mapping sessions with area teams put the toolkit into action through a series of training workshops.

The result was a toolkit adopted by the Forestry Commission and shared through its intranet to help managers respond to the Equality Act 2010 and make their recreation sites engaging and accessible for everyone.

Some key ingredients

Access priorities. On of the main motivations for an access review is to pick up priorities for access improvements. One of the biggest access issues in forest sites is distance. It's easy to overlook but it impacts on many visitors with limited mobility - an older person with less stamina, someone recovering from a heart attack or a parent needing to carry their small child who's become too tired to keep walking. The toolkit highlights solutions - more seating, options of shorter routes and better information for example.

Existing successes. The toolkit also draws on the great initiatives already in place in the forests, such as accessible cycling, to inspire similar developments in other sites.

A forest walk in autumn

Accessible bicycle

Visitor experience. We often use our sensory mapping tool to help site managers recognise the diversity of smells, sounds and textures and 'feel of a place', and how this relates to the overall visitor experience. This helps identify the full range of highlights their site offers to different visitors, and what more could be added.

Sensory mapping response on a tree says the bark looks like a living jigsaw puzzle

Mapping a forest area identifies a point where visitors have to decide where to go

Interested in our access services?

Sensory Trust is experienced in access audits and developing access review toolkits for a wide range of organisations and venues. Read more about our access audit consultancy >>

Links

Making Connections: a guide to accessible greenspace - a guide to improving access to greenspace

Access Chain - a tool for reviewing access from the user's perspective

Outdoor access design factsheets - free guidance

Access statements - samples for you to use

What is inclusive design? How an inclusive approach makes places better for everyone.

Accessible information design - why it matters and who it benefits