Woodlands nestle deep within our national psyche; they have been the origins of myths, fairy tales and legends for millennia. They have fed us with the fruits from the under-storey, sheltered us with their trunks and the off0cuts have kept us warm. The more ancient a forest, the more we seem to love it. Vast oaks, swathes of bluebells and woodland animals just add to the deeply ingrained feelings we have for these places.
Woodlands that we almost lost for ever.
Post World War Two, these most ancient of place came under sustained attach from government, farmers and even the Forestry Commission; the very people supposedly charged with looking after these assets. The spectre of profit over ecosystems loomed large, and in thirty years, yes just thirty years we lost half of our ancient forests. In this tale of doom and gloom were sparks of hope though. People who were passionate about their local woods stood up to landowners and the government; rogue commission employees to matters into their own hands and the rise of the conservation and wildlife trusts lobbied and bought woods and coppices under threat.
Some of the events he writes about are quite shocking, copses that were hundreds of years old, decimated in a few days. Other stories of rogue Forestry Commission employees, who though it was wiser to ignore the wishes of the management and the stock plan saved some of these woodlands. The deep passion Niemann has for his subject is evident throughout the book, His soft lyrical voice has given us a really wonderfully written book on the ancient forests that dot our landscape, and the fight that people have undertaken to save them and bring them back from the brink of the abyss. They still aren’t completely safe, but the evidence showing the benefit to our landscape and wellbeing is now evident, and these green jewels of our countryside have a much better future.