“In the company of flowers we know happiness. In the company of trees we are able to think, they foster meditation. Trees are very intellectual. There is nowhere on earth we can think so well as in a thin wood resting against a tree.”
(John Stewart Collis)
Woods have been on my mind recently. I have just finished the excellent book by John Stempel-Lewis about a wood he manages for a year in Herefordshire, he makes you look with fresh eyes at the way we use and relate to woodlands. Every morning as I come into the car park I greet “the guardian of the gate” a wonderfully gnarled horse chestnut of indeterminate age. He has daffodils at his feet today and I can see the buds breaking through the bark. Little points of light in a dull day.
A few weeks ago, the “Save Mortimer Forest” group were using the Mascal Centre to host their meeting and debate about the possible despoiling of the forest by a business consortium who want to build a holiday park here. There would be sixty cabins, a shop, a café all within the forest. A place which is currently free for us to roam in would be enclosed, private, no longer somewhere to visit quietly on long summer evenings.
We have visited the forest frequently since we came here 30 years ago. We brought our children and now take the grandchildren. Its varied flora and fauna, some like the deer unique to the forest never cease to enthral. We have seen adders basking on a rock in the late summer sun, owls feeding their young in the dusk. The noise they made was unbelievable. Squirrels, my grandson spotted one eating a nut the last time we went, and once and twice most magical of all the deer. A small herd flowed by us in the twilight, and once a single doe, leaped and ran beside the car, in and out among the trees accompanying us on our way back into Ludlow.
Then, last week a group from the Forestry Commission met up for a well deserved late breakfast after taking part in a deer survey. I don’t understand how the Forestry Commission can sell the land. I always thought that if an area contained animals and plants that were specific to that place, they were protected? Don’t we have enough B & B’s, hotels, guest houses, camping sites and caravan parks in the area to accommodate visitors? This seems to me another incidence of those in authority selling off assets that belong to the people of Ludlow and the surrounding area, like the old swimming pool and Whitcliffe Common.
How can you measure the age of a tree without either chopping it down and counting the rings or boring a hole into it, which sounds painful? Do we really have to chop down a forest to realize what we have lost?