The beauty of the woodland – why woodland management is so important to United Utilities

31 Dec 2021

The beauty of the woodlands!

Watch this video to find out why we have set ourselves the goal of planting one million trees by 2030.

Did you know that 13% of the UK’s landmass is covered by woodland? Although that might appear to be a lot, we’re the second least wooded country in Europe.

Woodlands are so important and here in the North West we look after 4,336 hectares. But we want more. We have set ourselves the goal of planting one million trees by the year 2030.

Since 2003 we’ve been Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) certified - Licence number FSC-C005555.  This ensures the way we manage our woodland is sustainable and in consideration of the needs of the entire catchment, aligning perfectly with our application of a Catchment Systems Thinking approach (CaST) in which we view the entire area in a holistic fashion.

Here are just some of the reasons why woodlands are vital.

How do woodlands help reduce flood risk and improve water quality?

The way we manage our woodland can have an impact on the quality of the water and it can also reduce the risk of flooding.

Firstly, let’s talk about how woodlands can impact the risk of a flood. Woodlands act like a sink, soaking up lots of water and can reduce the risk of flooding. They can do this in three ways:

  1. Trees capture large quantities of water. The large canopies help to intercept and spread rainfall which slows down run off.
  2. Just like a sponge, trees and woodlands can hold back and delay the flow of water into streams and rivers. Water is soaked into the soil, reducing the volume of water on the surface.
  3. Thanks to shrubs and fallen debris from the trees, an uneven surface is created on the floor of our woodlands. This vegetation soaks up water and slows the flow to the floodplain (the area of land surrounding the water), reducing the flooding risk downstream. 

There are a couple of other ways woodlands are vital when it comes to managing the volumes of rainfall too. Woodland can also be used to reduce soil erosion. This takes place where we have trees planted on steep slopes of land. The tree canopies can catch the rainfall, which helps to slow and spread the water more evenly across the slope. 

By having a mixture of tree species and tree ages, we can have a rich network of root structures within the soil. This helps to make the soil more robust and capable of withstanding large rainfall events.

Next up, let’s talk about how woodlands can help enhance the quality of our water. 

Woodlands can help reduce pollution in several ways:

  • By planting narrow bands of trees called shelterbelts, we can reduce the impact of spray drift and pollution.
  • Buffer strips, areas of built-up vegetation, can also act as a barrier to catch any pesticides.
  • Also, wooded wetlands, which are areas where soils and vegetation are flooded, can help treat any water that’s contaminated.

Woodlands are a haven for wildlife and wellbeing

Woodland areas provide essential habitats for wildlife and a space for recreation, which helps both our physical and mental wellbeing. Trees, meanwhile, play a vital role in offering a home to a wide variety of animal species – a place where they can seek protection and food and, more importantly, where they can thrive.

Not only do these areas provide a welcome place for wildlife, they’re also great for us too, allowing us to walk into the great outdoors and experience what the beautiful North West has to offer. 


As a major owner of woodland, we manage our trees in a sustainable way and we reinvest any gain into the improvement of our woodland areas and the ecosystem. 

We ensure that our activities are carried out in line with the needs of the entire catchment and remain appropriate to a Catchment Systems Thinking approach.

Woodland management and Catchment Systems Thinking

By applying a Catchment Systems Thinking approach to woodland management, we’ve set ourselves several ambitious objectives. We are consistently looking to drive down carbon emissions and we all know that trees are one of the best ways of doing this. Our goal of planting one million trees by 2030 will benefit the North West, both today and in the future.

To find out more about the beauty of the woodlands, watch our video below.

Catchment Systems Thinking

Watch our video to learn more about Catchment Systems Thinking.