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In the forest


Woodland, Marbury Country Park, Mersey Forest
Howard of Beautiful Britain tells us that in the springtime the woods are carpeted with wood anemones, followed by celandines and bluebells.
Image: Beautiful Britain

Some of my happiest childhood memories were running along woodland trails and climbing to the tops of trees while pretending I was one of Robin Hood’s merry men. I can still feel those high slender branches bending beneath my feet and the sure grasp of a branch in my hand. Years later I am more inclined to run or walk along the woodland paths, but the same vivid joy fills me, so I am very grateful to the men and women who have been protecting and nurturing woodlands.

It’s an ancient tradition. Magna Carta returned to the people forests that had been seized by the king, and stipulated that the “evil customs connected with forests. . . shall immediately by inquired into in each county by twelve sworn knights of the same county chosen by the honest men of the same county, and shall, within forty days of the said inquest, be utterly abolished.”

"Evil customs. . .utterly abolished" in forty days! I like that.

Today borough councils are working in England’s twelve community forests to expand woodlands and the network of forest trails. The largest of them, Mersey Forest, includes Marbury Country Park, and spans 465 square miles. In Mersey local councils are partnering with individuals and business to create 8,000 acres of new community woodlands.

I imagine it's a tall order. There are 1.6 million people living in the forest whose rights must be respected, and national policies, such as immigration, will affect the outcome. But given how much the forest has given us, we hope for the best.

In summer when the shawes be sheyne;
And leaves be large and long,
It is full merry in fair forest
To hear the fowls’ song.

To see the deer draw to the dale
And leave the hills he,
And shadow him in the leaves green,
Under the greenwood tree.

(From "Robin Hood and the Monk" with modern spelling; shaws are woods; sheyne is beautiful)