Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Last Trees Standing

Titnore Woods

This woodland is ancient, one of only two such sites left in this borough, and for years has been marked for 'development' while brownfield sites rot and fester in the nearby town.

To enter a woodland is to cross over, from a modern world to an ancient one. For centuries woodlands cradled man. Trees provided the fires that heated and cooked, the power for industry and the ships that protected the shores. Our folklore is full of tales of woodland life, from Robin Hood to Red Riding Hood, and it's place even in relatively modern children's tales such as Winnie the Poo and The Wind in the Willows remains strong; it drives our continuing perception of these places as on the periphery of things magical.

To me woodlands have always seemed at the edge of something, like the gateway to another world. Here is the stuff of childhood fantasies, of elves and sprites; toadstools and the Magic Faraway Tree, which, as a child,  I once looked for in a road atlas.

The trees wear bootees of melting snow, which runs into rutty rivers, feeding bootprint lakes. I rest against the trunk of the ancient oak, his bark furrowed like an old man's brow; this tree has stood for centuries, it watched King Charles II fleeing to France and ducked away from German bombs during the last war. Now, in his dotage he provides rest and shelter for the tired traveller.

How long before this land becomes a sea of concrete, homes for the upwardly mobile, eaten into what little we have left of the places that formed us; torn up to line the pockets of the few?

* If you're interested in preserving ancient woodlands then The Woodland Trust is the place to start. For more about the campaign to preserve Titnore Woods visit this blog or here.

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