The second of February, 2011: something has to be left to God

'Fallen Tree', wood engraving by Claire Oldham, from Gilbert White, 'A Natural History of Selborne' (The Cresset Press, 1960)

First libraries, now woodlands (don’t worry, there will be no further exercising of the Clutterbuck socio-political hobbyhorses after today (unless the Government attempt to outlaw Test cricket or privatise clouds, damn them)).

Selling off the UK’s forests seems deeply wrong-headed. Particularly if these figures are correct.

There are abstract as well as economic reasons for keeping our forests free. I like fact that, until bloody neothilic man spoiled things, this was a woodland nation (almost as much as I love the thought that, much more recently, we were once a maritime nation). Woodlands, like oceans (and as opposed to jungles, which, to a European, or at least to this European, conjure a more specific and less primal sort of foreboding: a relatively simple fear of the exotic and alien), have a powerful hold on European imaginations – consider, for instance, the Grimm brothers’ collections of folk-tales, and the terrifying darkness of the Germanic forests therein (Freud said that folk-tales contain “the dreams of the human race” – in this case, they contain (or are contained by) the nightmares).

I wish that we still had elks and wolves and beavers and bears. But then I suppose, if we did have them, they wouldn’t have any mystique (they are, after all, essentially mythological creatures to an Englishman), and if I were that bothered about having them I’d go and live in the Carpathians or somewhere. Rather than in Leeds.

I’m rambling now. Some links: to woodland photography; to a couple of woodland poems (one concerning private ownership of same, one not); and to a petition against the forest sell-off, which you can sign, if you want.


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