My town is famous for its woodlands. As a newcomer, I decided to walk them all. I duly set off for Wood Number One. My map, downloaded from the Woodlands Trust website, indicated an entrance to Wood Number One in such-and-such a road. There was none. I stumbled on Wood Number One Road, but it gave no access to … Wood Number One.
I phoned the local district council. Their representative tried to ask their Community Ranger to locate the missing wood, but he was unavailable. (He may, of course, have been out ranging the community). My helper, after exhaustive research, informed me in the end that the wood was the responsibility of the local town council. He also added that had I been looking for window boxes in the town centre, I would have been talking with the correct authority. This information will be useful if I decide to circumnavigate the town’s window boxes and find them missing.
The town council also failed to pin down my wood, but promised me a call from their Estate Manager. I’m still waiting. It was suggesting during my conversation with the local district council that Wood Number One is now known as X Common. It’s true that I wandered into this Common during my ill-fated search.
Isn’t there the risk, if the boundaries of a wood become blurred, whether by renaming it, merging it, concealing its entrances, or just neglecting it, that it will lose its physical and historical uniqueness? Is the greater risk that a nebulous wood is much easier to transform into an ex-wood, e.g. a housing estate?
Wouldn’t it be easy to privatise a public wood that’s been made to vanish from the map? The privatisation of UK public woodland was a recent real threat. Massive public protest forced the Government to back down, but it will be looking for more than one way to cook the goose (wood), as the saying goes.
I’ve written a letter to my local newspaper about the missing Wood Number One. It will be interesting to see if my letter is published. I’ll be even more interested in any response. I promise to report back on this and I keep my promises of communication, unlike my local town council.
Use it or lose it?