Britain’s biggest walking charity is urging a Government-appointed panel to increase access to England’s forests and woods, ahead of the publication of its recommendations next week.
The Independent Panel on Forestry was set up by the coalition Government after the huge public outcry over its plans to sell off publicly owned forests.
The panel is due to deliver its report on Wednesday next week, but the Ramblers said the panel had the chance to help not just to protect pubic woods but extend recreational access to other forestry.
The Ramblers welcomed the panel’s interim report in December but said it had a golden opportunity to put public access at the heart of forestry policy in England.
Nicky Philpott, Ramblers director of policy and campaigns, said: “The panel has a once in a generation opportunity to be bold and imaginative and look at how we can extend the benefits of woodland to even more people across England.
“Local forests have for a long time been a favourite place to walk, play and explore, to provide inspiration and rejuvenation, which explains the huge outcry over the sale of public woodland last year.
“The Secretary of State, Caroline Spellman, asked the panel to look at the future of all English woodland and to put access at the heart of its recommendations.
“We want the panel to maintain its commitment to public forests but also hope it goes further and looks at ways to increase public access to woodland outside the public forest estate.”
The Independent Panel on Forestry, chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool, includes in its membership the former Ramblers chief executive Tom Franklin.