Friday, 29 July 2011


Managing is being in control. Why we would need always to have our woods and hills under someone’s control is a question that I’ve never had answered satisfactorily. But that is what the combined chorus of the conservation lobby tells us. Their well trained unanimity can only be admired. And it is to their advantage that this should be believed. It helps the story to get accepted that most ‘nice’ people are programmed to trust anyone whose job is connected with nature or wildlife or birds. (The same people probably also trusted bankers before the recent crisis and are already returning to a more relaxed guard.)

So we’re told every moor and field and bit of woodland has to have a management plan and an organisation in control that is dedicated to intervention. Heretics and doubters try to test these beliefs through observation. There is a little maxim that serves us well: when everyone insists on one view they’ve probably not looked very carefully.

To my knowledge these woods have had no management for as long as I’ve known them. They should therefore be unsatisfactory or ‘in unfavourable condition’. In fact they are delightful. It is a treat to walk through them on a summer’s afternoon when the sun is high and bright. At every turn there is a new composition to enjoy. This is young woodland and largely composed of trees that live short lives. For that reason they attain the posture and wrinkles of age earlier than the heavy brigade among trees. Alder and birch, pine and hawthorn get a mature character before oak and ash and elm. The managers are best out of the way. Who’s to know what they will do if they see somewhere that challenges their raison d’etre. Perhaps we should congratulate rather than criticise them for being at their desks instead of on site. But then even at their desks they come up with ideas that surely not even they would dream of if they knew the place day by day.

A man with a strimmer will shortly be coming along to tidy up the edges of the path along from Shorts Lane. It was done earlier last year cutting off flowers in their prime. Even now I can see no threat from nettles and other coarse plants. And the strimmed edges bring no appeal. It’s surprising they didn’t think of livestock; that way there might have been a grant to claim.

One of today’s extra surprises was the lighting effect set up by sun penetrating to the floor of the wet birch woods carpeted with hundreds of horsetails.

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