Friday, 4 February 2011

Ancient woodland and the psyche of the English

Hatfield Forest

The English Wood is something that has a special place in the nation’s consciousness. We might not think about forests and woodlands that often but as Simon Schama argued in his classic ‘Landscape and Memory’, our forests and woodlands have shaped our culture and our imaginations.

Bluebell wood
Bluebells in Broaks Wood

The proposal to sell off the woodland managed by the Forestry Commission (From the website - We are the government department responsible for the protection and expansion of Britain's forests and woodlands.) has sparked huge protest. A YouGov poll suggested that 84% of people were opposed. to the government's plans, with one pressure group saying it had already collected 400,000 signatures on its petition.

Objectors point out that the government does not  own these assets but is a trustee of them on behalf of the British public. There is a deep rooted suspicion that the proposal is not just about saving money but is the government's attempt at divesting itself of its responsibilities. It is asset stripping of the lowest kind.

Ancient Hornbeams, Hatfield Forest

If ancient woods were buildings, they would be protected to the highest 'Grading'. But natural heritage is not afforded the same importance, despite the fact many ancient woodland sites date back far beyond that of the built environment.