Out & About …

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

The Causeway, Stocks Reservoir

The Forest of Bowland is a new area to me. I have an impression of a large tract of land devoid of Public Rights of Way with a reputation for the illegal persecution of birds of prey. Ironic then that the hen harrier is the symbol of this Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB). Forest, of course, means a royal hunting ground and not the modern meaning of a large expanse of commercial coniferous plantation such as the Gisburn Forest that occupies the east catchment of Stocks Reservoir in the upper Hodder valley. Stocks Reservoir was built in 1932 by the Fylde Water Board submerging several farms and the village of Stocks-in-Bowland. In 1989 Margaret Thatcher privatised our water and Stocks Reservoir and its forest was “sold” to North West Water which later merged with NORWEB to become United Utilities, the UK’s largest listed water company. Since privatisation, our water bills have gone up in real terms by 40%, with many examples of polluted rivers from sewage. Water is vital for life. The treatment of wastewater is vital for our environment. Should these be left to commercial monopolies whose only concern is to their shareholders? Is there a case for renationalisation? Scottish Water remains publicly owned, Welsh Water is a not-for-profit organisation and the French water companies are all publically owned and accountable. These are working, to the benefit of society. But to give United Utilities some credit, they have made Gisburn Forest very public accessible, a prime location for mountain biking.

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