Forestry investment returns increased by 20.6% last year, outperforming equities, gilts and commercial property for the first time, according to the latest IPD forestry index.

Returns, however, varied widely depending on location, age and type.

Commercial woodland over 30 years was the strongest sector with total returns of almost 27%.

Scotland was the top-performing region with a total return of 24%. Welsh forests only achieved 14.2%.

A 14% increase in timber values over the past year and rises in the price of agricultural land were behind the strong results, said IPD research director Malcolm Frodsham.