“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” –  Henry David Thoreau

Rotheimurchus forest, Near Aviemore

People who know me outside of work, know that I spend most of my spare time outdoors – I love to walk, run or ride my bike in the woods and hills. Since late last summer I have been enjoying combining my interpretation writing skills with my love of the outdoors as a ‘Web guide’ for the website Visit Woods run by the Woodland Trust and partners.

The website is a really great idea, it allows people to search for woods near their home postcode or by name and view information about the facilities, photos and comments from other visitors. In theory, all the content for the website could be ‘user-generated’ but in order to seed the site and get things moving, the Woodland Trust have enlisted and trained ‘web guides’ from all over the country to specifically enter content.

Initially, the basic information about the wood – basically its map coordinates – is provided by the landowner such as Forestry Commission (Scotland), Woodland Trust, National Trust (for Scotland) or RSPB. Other landowners include local councils. In my area of Edinburgh, the city council owns a lot of wooded area, unfortunately however these initially ALL appeared on the Visit Woods website as ‘a The City of Edinburgh Council wood’. Obviously it’s really off-putting when searching for local woods to get a list of 10-12 woods all titled ‘a The City of Edinburgh Council wood’. Even worse, these ‘woods’ ranged in quality from fantastic hidden treasures like the Water of Leith walkway, to quality urban woodlands to playing fields, scrub or even wasteland.

Information board in Colinton Dell

Over the last six months, we have worked our way through all these ‘woods’ in Edinburgh, separating the wheat from the chaff, suggesting names, combining entries and deleting inappropriate entries. I’m pleased to say that a search in a 5 mile radius of my home now returns only two ‘no name’ woods in the first three pages and even these both have descriptions and photos and will have new names added in the next big site update.

Winter near the Water of Leith

So why not check out the Visit Woods site for yourself? Search around your own postcode and see what you can find. And if the content in your area is a little sparse, get out with a camera and add your own!