Posts Tagged ‘woods’

Destruction of Ancient Woodlands

January 4, 2014
Lower Woods - Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust

Lower Woods – Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust

People will say that’s no good for our generation but, over the long term, that is an enormous increase in the number of trees. — Owen Paterson, Environment secretary

Owen Paterson once again demonstrates his ignorance of the environment and why he is unfit to be Environment Secretary.

Large parts of the country is under water, flooded, due to wave after wave of storms to batter the country. His response, fire more than 1,500 people at the Environment Agency, the lead agency responsible for flood defence.

But this is not the only act of crass stupidity from this arrogant imbecile.

  • He has attacked people for opposing GM crops
  • Pushed a mass killing of badgers
  • He has appointed a property developer to English Nature (or whatever name it now has)

The latest act of crass stupidity, as reported on the front page of The Times, is to relax the constraints on destruction of Ancient Woodlands. He proposes destroying Ancient Woodlands so developers can make a fast buck, replacing each tree cut down, with one hundred trees.

Ancient Woodlands, pre-dating 1600, are all that remains of the post-glacial forest cover, one of our most valuable habitats.

In Lincolnshire, often in the corner of fields, small woods, their name gives them away, fox covets. These date from the Enclosures, have little wild life or ecological value.

Contrary to the ignorance of Owen Paterson, a wood is more than a collection of trees, it is a complex ecological system.

I have found trees in Ancient Woodlands, a thousand years old.

Ancient Woods are not only important for their ecological value, they have archaeological features, ancient wood banks, saw pits and many other interesting features.

Owen Paterson calls cutting down Ancient Woodlands, ‘biodiversity offsetting’, an oxymoron.

It was not so long ago, the evil CondDem government tried to sell off all our woodlands for development. They met huge public opposition and were forced to back down.

Far from grubbing up our ancient forests, what we need to see is rewilding of the countryside.

Update: Please sign the petition to Save our Ancient Woodlands.


May 25, 2013


A spring flower, found in woodlands.

An indicator species for ancient woodlands.


March 28, 2012


In Japan, spring is heralded by the cherry blossom trees coming into flower.

In England, it is the bluebell that heralds the arrival of spring.

Although found across northern Europe, it is in England that bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) comes into its own.

Ancient woodlands, with trees of oak, hazel and ash, once coppiced, though now mostly neglected, in the spring are a carpet of blue.

Bluebells are the second wave of woodland flowers. The first wave are much closer to the ground.

The trees then come into leaf, shading out the ground.

Nothing of interest will now be found in the woods, apart from butterflies flitting around sunny glades and woodland rides, until the autumn, when the woodland fungi can be found.

Last week, bluebells were just starting to come into flower in my garden.

Spring Solstice 2012

April, I will expect the woodland area of my garden to be carpeted with bluebells.

Bluebells are usually blue, but occasionally they are white and purple.


January 24, 2012


hazel catkins

hazel catkins

I have hazelnuts, Corylus avellana, growing in my garden. I rarely see them, or at least see them to eat, as the squirrels get there first. They will happily and quite nonchalantly stroll past me, steal a nut, then scurry away quickly with their prize in grasped between their paws.

Last year was different. It was a warm summer, the nuts ripened early, and I got there first. The nuts were ready mid-August, not September. But then locally grown apples were ready beginning of August! [see Hazellnuts]

The squirrels must have been watching, thinking that is kind of him, he is collecting the nuts for us, as I then noticed my pile of nuts went down and in the end I did not get to eat a single one. Once again the squirrels had them all.

The catkins are now appearing. Strange there are no catkins on the bush nearest my house. I always see them looking out through my French windows. A neighbour has been trespassing during my absence. I suspect has damaged or poisoned my bush. It is looking quite dead.

Hazel nuts found in the shops and on markets are either imported or commercially grown. They are vastly inferior to the wild hazel nuts which taste far better and are not dried up.

If you do pick from the woods and hedgerows, leave some for the squirrels, its is their winter supply of food. I only wish the squirrels knew they were supposed to leave some for me, not as they do, strip my trees bare leaving nothing for me

Hazel is a tree or bush of hedgerows and woods. In the woods coppiced. If coppiced after a few years, used as brushwood in ovens, if left longer used as handles for hoes and rakes and brooms.

If in ancient woods and hedgerows, they represent the remains of the post-glacial woods that covered England. These woods and hedgerows have wonderful ground flora.

Few of these woods are now worked or coppiced. As a result, the ground flora is being shaded and dying, as are the butterflies which needed sunny patches.

I recall meeting an elderly lady when I was surveying many of these ancient woods in the 1980s. She told me of being able to ride through the woods in a carriage along the woodland rides. She also told me that the last time the woods were coppiced was the Second World War when there was an urgent need for pits props. She said they had not been coppiced fpr many years before then nor have they been coppiced since. She said when the woods were coppiced there was a riot of colour as all the ground flora came into flower which lasted two years.

The hedgerows need to be periodically layered. This is skilled work and labour intensive. The farmers use tractors to give the hedgerows a short back and sides. The net result is the hedge becomes leggy, holes appear at ground level through which livestock can force their way through. The hedge loses its value to the farmer and ends up being grubbed up.

On the Reading to Gatwick train, after passing through Ash, the train passes through ancient woodland before reaching Guildford. From Guildford to Redhill, the train runs parallel to the North Downs and ancient woodlands can be seen.

The book on ancient woodlands is Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape. Also The History of the Countryside, which is more general on the evolution of the English countryside. Both are by Oliver Rackham.

Widespread public opposition to sell-off of public woods and forests

February 15, 2011
Hawley Wood

Hawley Wood

fungi in Hawley Wood

fungi in Hawley Wood

fungi in Hawley Wood

fungi in Hawley Wood

Who owns the public woods and forests in England? We do, that is the public do. Who says they should not be sold? We do, that is the public do.

Britain’s woods and forests for sale
For sale: all of our forests. Not some of them, nor most of them – the whole lot

This therefore begs the question: Why are these woods and forests up for sale?

Why is the government not listening? It is not only in the Middle East that there is a lack of democracy, there is a lack in our own back yard, or at least in our woods and forests. A YouGov poll last month found 84% of the British public wanted to see woods and forests kept in public ownership for future generations, ie they did not support the sell-off.

Huge majority oppose England forest sell-off
Survey finds opposition to privatisation of forest

The government is fast backpeddling. They are now saying not all will be sold, that some will be leased. But none of this is good enough. Leased, sold, these woods and forest should be taken off the market.

David Cameron ‘listening to all the arguments’ on forest sell-off
Has the government done U-turns on forest and nature reserves sell-off?
English forest sell-off put on hold

The amount of money that will be raised is trivial. It may even turn into a loss!

Privatising English forests could ‘cost millions in lost tax revenues’

You do not engage in ‘consultation’ when legislation is part-way through Parliament, and yet that is what is happening.

Consultation: Future of the public forest estate

A red herring, if not an outright lie, is now being peddled by the government. Look, we are told, at the decades of mismangement by the Forestry Commission, look at the serried rows of dank conifer plantations, look at the destruction of our native decidous woodlands.

All of which is true, or was true. Much of which was driven by tax breaks in the private sector. None has fought harder than I against such a policy. But the Forestry Commission has learnt over the last couple of decades, forestry is no longer seen as the extraction of timber from a conifer monoculture. Forestry is now seen as woodland and forest management, the importance of the wood and forest as habitat, the importance of biodiversity, the importance of recreation. And now the importance as a carbon sink.

Zero Carbon by 2030

The other argument peddled is that the forests and woods will be more efficiently managed in the private sector. What does this word ‘efficiency’ mean? It means profit, it means maximising short-term profit. This means serried rows of conifers, it means chip and burn, it means exclusion of the public, or restricted to defined routes not free to wander. If no money to be made from the trees, it means leisure parks, holiday camps, it means golf courses, it means car rallies, it means housing and warehouses.

From a biodiversity perspective, efficency means maximisng the biodiversity, but there is no profit in that.

We even have the Orwellian straight out of Nineteen Eighty-Four we are selling the woods and forests to ‘protect’ them!

The opposition is not coming from the mainsteam environmental groups, whose deafening silence or worse tacit support has been a disgrace, but has at least exposed their lack of genuine concern for the environment. This is a grassroots campaign. It has upset the public the thought of their favourite haunt being sold to some private corporation whose only interest will be what profit can be wrung out of the wood.

Fears over the future of Somerset forests
Forest of Dean selloff angers locals
Lean Dean Fighting Machine
Cameron faces the other countryside alliance in Grizedale forest

There is no surprise in this. The big groups are businesses, their business is campaigning. Campaigns are PR stunts to raise money. Many simply see the sell-off as an opportunity to expand their real estate, empire building.

Jonathon Porritt attacks conservation groups for stance on forests sell-off

I stuck two fingers up to the Woodland Trust years ago. They used to push out leaflets showing their rapidly expanding forestry estate. But that was all it showed. It did not mean these woods had been ‘saved’ as unless they were under threat, what were they being saved from? All that had happend was that the ownership had changed as the Woodland Trust lacked the resources then and I doubt it has the resources now to manage their woodland estate.

Similarly the National Trust. It owns large tracts of the English Countryside. But what in practice does this mean? I used to walk along the south west coast, the Welsh Borders, the Shropshire Hills. The despoilt parts I came across were those owned by the National Trust. I would see signs saying beauty spot, hoardes of grockles, ugly footpaths, car parks, litter, toilet blocks, tea shops. I recall the one valley in the Shropshire Hills the NT owned, the burbling stream was full of coke cans. I remember when Maggie Thatcher wanted to build a nuclear bunker in a woodland, the NT rolled over and gave in. More recently they have sold off land from an estate for housing.

National Trust enters English forest sell-off row

This is not the first time the public has been roused to protect its forests. Around 150 years ago there was a big campaign to save Epping Forest. It was saved by being bought by the City of London and brought into public ownership.

Many of our forests are Royal hunting grounds. The New Forest was established by William the Conquerer.

Our woods and forests are part of our cultural heritage.

Beware the forest fairies

We must stop this crass policy dead in its tracks!

Do your bit. Join the facebook group, sign the petition, sign the letter to David Cameron. If there is a rally to protect your local woods and forests get on down there. If not, organise one.

Fight the government’s forest sell-off
Britain’s woods and forests for sale

Climate Rush target Defra in protest at forest sell off

January 20, 2011
Climate Rush visit Defra

Climate Rush visit Defra

Climate Rush visit Defra

Climate Rush visit Defra

Climate Rush visit Defra

Climate Rush visit Defra

Climate Rush visit Defra

Climate Rush visit Defra

Climate Rush visit Defra

Climate Rush visit Defra

Dressed as suffragettes with little sewn on ears to represent creatures of the forests, activists from Climate Rush targeted Defra in protest at the forced sell off of our woods and forests. The group delivered abandoned trees bearing the words Deeds Not Words Climate Rush to Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

As part of its slash and burn of public services, the ConDem government is planning a massive sell off of woods and forests in England. Nothing is safe, even the Forest of Dean is up for sale.

Britain’s woods and forests for sale
Activists hit Defra to protest over forests sale
Flashmob Forest hits DEFRA
Stop The Sell Off Of The Forest Of Dean
Lean Dean Fighting Machine

Britain’s woods and forests for sale

November 12, 2010
Hawley Wood

Hawley Wood

fungi in Hawley Wood

fungi in Hawley Wood

fungi in Hawley Wood

fungi in Hawley Wood

The UK government plans to put half of England’s state-owned forests up for sale to private firms to raise billions to reduce the budget deficit and as a give-away to the nascent biomass industry. Ancient woodlands, regenerating natural forests and planted trees all provide important ecosystems and could be chopped down to make way for holiday villages, golf courses and commercial logging. This is theft of the English cultural heritage with woodlands and natural landscapes. Instead the UK government should fully protect many of these woodlands, fund forest ecological restoration and native plantation establishment, and strive in haste to get to 25% forest cover and beyond for their own ecological sustainability.

Across the whole of the UK, the Forestry Commission – the government department “responsible for the protection and expansion of Britain’s forests and woodlands” – owns or manages 18 per cent of England’s wooded areas, some 814,000 hectares of woodland, half of which could be put up for sale over the coming decade as part of the coalition government’s attempts to reduce the deficit and fund biomass energy. The British Isles have been severely denuded, down to 4% in 1919 when the Forest Commission started, and still only at 12% now – compared to Europe’s average of 30%. EcoInternet supports local calls for a doubling of UK woodland to 25% of the land base. And we need to stop these forest sell-off plans that could even potentially impact the handful of remaining ancient natural forests like The Forest of Dean and Sherwood Forest. Indeed any natural vegetation – across UK’s denuded, over-industrialized and over-populated landscape – are national treasures and must be protected and assisted to expand for local, regional and global ecological sustainability.

UK is a ferocious consumer of timber and paper products, importing about 75% of the wood consumed. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, said the sale of forested land to private developers would represent “an unforgivable act of environmental vandalism… Rather than asset-stripping our natural heritage, government should be preserving public access to it and fostering its role in combating climate change and enhancing biodiversity.”

The entire British Isles are ripe for major woodland restoration by encouraging diverse natural plantings of native broad leaf species, such as larch, oak, willow and ash. There should be little if any monoculture which are particularly susceptible to climate change. Further, the UK government must seek to find ways to designate most of these state-owned forests as “conservation areas” and “carbon sinks” to recognize the fact that their value has diversified and moved away from simply being viewed as timber or biomass farms.

These woods and forests are valuable not only to the wildlife, but to the people who use them. They are open to people to wander through. Will they be once privatised? Doubtful, otherwise why would anyone buy them?

As the glaciers melted and retreated, Britain was heavily wooded. Very little of this forest remains.

There are open forests, like the New Forest, new when created by William the Conqueror. Many, like the New Forest, are former hunting grounds where Forest Law prevailed.

There are then Ancient Woodlands, the remains of the ancient post-glacial forest cover. Ancient Woodlands date from at least 1600. They are usually on the boundaries of parishes, have irregular boundaries, Old English names and are full of indicator species. Most if not all supported a thriving coppice industry. They fell into disuse, were revived during the Second World War, and have since fallen into disuse again.

We are quick in the West to attack countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil for destroying their rainforests, and quite rightly so, but conveniently ignoring that the destruction is to supply us in the West when the land is cleared for cash crops. We are hypocrites when we ignore the destruction in our own back yards.

Forests are essential, not only for their own sake for the myriad of species they constitute and the complex web of life therein, but also as an essential Gaian control mechanism. We can limit our carbon emission, limit the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, but all would be for nought if we had destroyed the Gaian control mechanisms.

The sell-off of the UK’s forests would make an insignificant difference to the Budget Deficit. A deficit that is widely exaggerated. Yes it should be reduced, but at a much slower rate that the economy can cope with. We are not on the brink of bankruptcy as claimed. The budget deficit is being used as an excuse for slash and burn of welfare.

£7 billion has been slashed from welfare, from the poor, from the disabled, from the environment.

Meanwhile Vodafone has been let off a £6 billion tax bill!

We are seeing more and more civil unrest, people are willing to take direct action. Vodafone stores across the country have been occupied and shut down the last two weeks. A couple of days ago angry protesters smashed their way into the party offices of the ruling Tory Party.

Contrary to the kneejerk reaction from the mainstream media what we saw at Millbank Tower was not Class War or Hard Core Anarchists as it lacked all the hallmarks and they would not have put themselves in the position of being identified or arrested. This was pent up anger from students who felt they have been betrayed, who see university will once again be for the rich and privileged.

Excellent pictures though in the Mail.

What we are seeing is the beginning of mobilisation against the cuts. As we have seen with Vodafone protests, a whole new generation is taking direct action, making full use of the internet to mobilise very fast.

Those in power do not give up power, they are forced to relinquish power.

People are saying NO! NO to cuts. NO to sell off of our forests!

Please sign the letter opposing sell-off of our forests

Please also sign the on-line petition

Hawley Wood is just one example of a wood now under threat. A decade ago when the MoD was going to sell it, it was earmarked for a housing. It could be under threat again.

Top story in The North Kent Marshes Daily (Saturday 8 January 2011).

Also see

Fight the government’s forest sell-off

For sale: all of our forests. Not some of them, nor most of them – the whole lot

Forests sell-off plan by government is ‘asset-stripping our natural heritage’

Beware the forest fairies, David Cameron

For sale – Cameron’s green credentials

Lean Dean Fighting Machine

Privatising English forests could ‘cost millions in lost tax revenues’

Zero Carbon by 2030

Widespread public opposition to sell-off of public woods and forests

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