Sherwood Forest uprising
A packed meeting in Nottingham (27 January) is just one of many local campaigns springing up against the sale of our forests. “Sherwood Forest matters”, the Sherwood campaign reports. “ It is something that is too vital and deeply rooted in the people of Nottinghamshire to be simply sold off by the Government in response to the ravages of the banking crisis.” The meeting was convened by Nottinghamshire Save Our Services and the Climate Alliance .
Paddy Tipping MP, speaking as Vice President of the Ramblers Association, made clear the importance of the access to land, access that was hard won over many years of struggle and mass action. We need to be very wary of Government promises, he said, and to be aware of the prospect of future amendments. We should not let go of our hard fought rights to roam or the necessary supporting resources.
Sherwood Forest is now a complex web of woodland and forest which has a global identity as part of the legends of Robin Hood. A large part of the forest is held and operated by the Forestry Commission on behalf of the people. These forests freely open to the public and in public ownership are what the Government wants to sell. They have recently been developed as important free public recreational spaces and to be seen as vital environmental resources all at minimal public cost – around 30p/year for tax payers!
Kaye Brennan set out the position of the Woodland Trust, which has lobbying Government intensively over the past three months. They are clear that there should be no disposal of any land at least until there is a binding commitment to complete the work to restore ancient woodlands. Like other charities, the Woodland Trust is not in a position to take over responsibility for managing large areas of forest.
Andrea Oates of the Nottinghamshire Save Our Services campaign placed the sale of Sherwood Forest in the context of the other Government cutbacks which are facing increasing resistance and also of the large number of jobs that are at risk in and around the forest. Andrea encouraged people to add their names to the campaign by 38 degrees which now has nearly 300,000 signatures, lobby their MPs about their opposition to the sell off and to demonstrate against these proposals.
Peter Robinson of the Climate Alliance stressed the importance of maintaining the forest to respond to the threat of climate change and of the capacity of forests to absorb carbon dioxide without the need for expensive and elaborate technology.
The meeting was encouraged to hear that some job cuts threatened in Sherwood Forest as part of Government cutbacks have been postponed in response to the public reaction so far – a clear indication of the power of the public voice.
After a well-informed and passionate discussion it was agreed to organise a protest and rally in Sherwood Forest calling on people from all over the county and neighbouring towns and cities to demonstrate to Government that we mean to fight to retain our forest. Similar actions are expected to take place across the country. Many people at the meeting signed up to a new ‘Save Sherwood Forest’ organisation.