The UK’s timber growers have long invested in the silvicultural knowledge, skills and research required to produce forests and woodlands that are internationally recognised as embodying best practice. Whilst we still have much to learn, the development of UKWAS and the progressive achievement of certification are enabling growers to pursue the goals and vision of Naturally Wood which in turn are generating public benefits throughout the UK-grown wood chain.

An important consequence of this is that our timber, which is essentially solidified sunlight, is the most environmentally sustainable, renewable and energy efficient of current building materials. As long as the sun shines and our forests are professionally managed, timber will be produced that helps us build our homes, heat our hearths, provide our books and fence our fields.

In a global economic environment facing serious challenges from both a depletion of finite fossil fuels and climate change driven by the combustion of such fuels, the UK’s forests and woodlands will once again, as in 1919, be recognised as strategically valuable assets.

Recent research has enabled us to measure and value the economic, environmental and social benefits of forests down the UK wood chain and of timber over its long life cycle. There is now a need to adopt similar accounting for the end uses and markets into which timber is sold and competes. The progressive adoption of eco-housing standards is a greatly welcomed first step, but this is only the first step in addressing a range of challenges.

A more holistic approach to genuine sustainable development, through, for example, planning and building regulations which match local needs with local solutions, could be a useful next step.

The experience of UK forestry and timber has wider lessons for us all.