Because of our increasingly litigious society, Jill and I decided to take out third party liability insurance for Rainbow Wood. Although we take every care to ensure a safe environment, it seems that we must protect ourselves against injury to people and their pets in our woodland - whether or not we have invited them to be there! We even have to insure ourselves against the possibility of trespassers marauding through our wood and injuring themselves.
We keep a running log of any regular patrols of the boundaries and woodland that we undertake, and also log anything we consider to be a hazard such as branches overhanging the boundary footpaths. We also undertake to patrol after storms to check that nothing has become dislodged. Anything we indentify as a hazard is then dealt with - eg lopping branches and felling unsafe trees.
In many respects this rigorous attention is counterproductive to the natural state of the woodland as it destroys the ecosystem and natural processes of decay much needed as habitat for birds, bats, insects, mice and other small mammals.
Since ‘Right to Roam’ can be exercised over large tracts of hillside, many people imagine that all countryside, including woodland, is now open access. Unless a wood was previously ‘common land’ no such right exists. Rainbow Wood is ancient woodland and has never been used as common land.
Readers - please see ‘Managing Visitor Safety in the Countryside’ - www.vscg.co.uk/