06 February 2011

The woods today

If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise. Well, perhaps not. Dr Grumble did go down to his local woods today and he wasn't too surprised to see For Sale notices up. They are not real For Sale notices. They are notices posted by concerned local groups worried about the sale of our woodlands.

Dr Grumble's local wood is part of a forest that has been there for at least 7000 years. Wood has been taken from it to meet the needs of shipbuilders and for buildings. The rape of the forest has at times left it without much timber but its importance was recognised by the king and hundreds of years ago it was replanted following which it flourished unmolested for a century or more. Sadly, the exigencies of the Napoleonic Wars resulted in the forest becoming denuded yet again.

Much of the land that forms the Grumble wood was once common land. Locals could graze their livestock and harvest wood for much needed fuel. But, in 1812, land that had been for the use of commoners was enclosed under the Inclosures Act and along with this the red deer that had lived there for perhaps 11000 years were eradicated never to return. By this process rich people acquired the land and very poor people lost the use of what had once essentially belonged to them and been recognised as a common resource.

In the 1920s the Forestry Commission took over the Grumble woodlands. The reason for this would be very familiar with any doctor brought up with the Babcock Sentence:

One thing a nation must have to be rich and great is a large, secure supply of wood.

Babcock, H. (1930) Arch. Psychol., N.Y. No. 117

Indeed the original purpose of the Forestry Commission was to look after the interests of the state by ensuring a large and secure supply of wood. But today the Forestry Commission manages the Grumble woods for people. By a wonderful turn of fate, these are the common people who lost the use of the very same common land when it was taken away from them in 1812 so that the rich people could become even richer.

A notice stapled to a tree in the Grumble wood.

It is a very odd thing that just as the Forestry Commission is restoring the Grumble woods to their former glory so that the common people can use them again, the ConDem government is hell-bent on taking the woods away from the common people and giving them to rich people so that they can become even richer. Isn't it strange how history repeats itself?


Betty M said...

I saw the National Trust floated the idea they might buy the lot. It will be interesting to see how the Coalition react to that given the NT is surely part of the Big Society.

English Pensioner said...

Re Betty M
My first thought was that the National Trust should take them over, along with the buildings owned by English Heritage (why do we need two heritage organisations), but some of the recent commercial decisions by the National Trust have left me wondering whether this would necessarily be for the best. Beware, the National Trust can be as commercial in its dealings as any other organisation, and, of course, wherever they can, they charge for entry.

Dr Grumble said...

Jonathon Porritt (son of a famous surgeon) questions why organisations like the National Trust have been rather muted in their response to all this. I see his point.

Julie said...

Have a look at the woods near me, Dr G;


Dr Grumble said...

I saw them Julie. I was curious enough to remind myself of where you live.

Sam said...

About "A Corporate Coup d’Etat " from your reading list Dr G

Very sad reading! And naive me is calling for acounts to be frozen!

You see, if Mubarak has 70 billion dollars to himself, then the cronies around him must have tens of times that between them! Because we're talking about an army of those now, hundreds of thousands if not millions strong! Egypt is not so poor as many think, Egypt was impoverished by her savage 'protectors'!

Please excuse me, I can't think of anything else these days, but I do read everybody.

Crazy world! Nothing is called 'honour' anymore!