Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

View of the former Westworth Plantation, recently clear-felled. In the foreground a kissing-gate giving access to the Public Footpath which crosses the moor.

“Spare the Trees”

“Two facts confront us, and deserve serious consideration. The forests of the world are going just as the coal beneath our feet is going — man is a cooking animal, and must have fuel. In all the great outlets of water floods multiply, and become more and more destructive. We are compelled to ask if there is any necessary, or perhaps, obvious connection between the two facts. Undoubtably there is, and one of the most simple nature; and one, moreover, that plainly teaches that the more the earth is stripped of its natural clothing in the shape arborescent vegetation, the more and more will it become unfit for habitation and a break howling wilderness. If the race of men wish to hold their place on the planet, therefore, they will do well to preserve a reasonable extent of forest, and, at all events, they may to their own advantage occasionally plant for posterity, because while the trees are growing they will moderate the floods somehow or other. The utterly selfish system will not pay. In proportion as the forests are destroyed, human life will be denuded of its joys in times when danger does not threaten; and when threatening begins in respect of torrents and floods, it will simply be exposed to such tremendous risks it becomes fair speculation that water and not fire will make an end of the race of men. — Gardener’s Magazine.”

These prophetic words were published in 1879, 143 years ago. They were syndicated to many provinical newspapers1E.g. ‘Spare the Trees. | Ross-Shire Journal | Friday 23 May 1879 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001911/18790523/066/0004> [accessed 16 December 2022] including overseas2E.g. ‘The Preservation of Forests | Barbados Herald | Thursday 05 June 1879 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0004292/18790605/006/0001?browse=true> [accessed 16 December 2022].

Of course, a modern take might extend the argument to all ecosystems, not just “arborescent vegetation” but otherwise today’s sentiments are exactly the same.

The photo I have chosen for this post is the view that greeted us when reaching the edge of Westworth Plantation. I knew forestry work was being carried out but even so I was quite surprised by the extent of the clear-felling.

Of course, Westworth Plantation was a commercial forest of Lodgepole pine and Douglas fir, so its felling was inevitable. It was a crop that was planted in the early 1950s around a reservoir which dated from 1874/53Burns, Tom Scott. “The Walker’s Guide to the Cleveland Hills”. Page 53. 1993. Smith Settle. ISBN 1-85825-009-9.. Back in history though, Westworth, ‘the west wood‘,  was a wooded valley4“Guisborough Before 1900”. Edited by B.J.D. Harrison and G. Dixon. Page 242. 1982. ISBN 0 9507827 0 X.. In 1246, the Prior of Gisborough agreed not to let his dogs chase “wild beasts” in Peter de Brus’s forest in “Westwyth5Ibid. Page 63.. He liked a good hunt did our Prior. The word ‘forest’ here, of course, means a private hunting estate but would have been naturally wooded.

As I write this news has come out that a deal has been agreed to protect nature at the UN biodiversity summit, COP15.

Our Environment Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, has said “Today’s deal is an historic milestone in protecting our natural environment for future generations”6for, Department. 2022. ‘New Deal to Protect Nature Agreed at COP15’, GOV.UK <https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-deal-to-protect-nature-agreed-at-cop15> [accessed 19 December 2022].

I hope these are not hollow words and the Government, which has missed many deadlines for environment targets, and failed to deliver at home, commits to protecting all ecosystems and not just those habitats for the more exotic species such as such as rhinos and gorillas.



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