In a piece in the Guardian, Soil Association president Monty Don, speaking about coppiced woodland, says “The only people who make a living from woodlands like these nowadays are those who teach a few affluent city folk on woodland craft weekends or, more commonly, run pheasant shoots”.
While I agree with the thrust of the article, comments like this make it sound as if this is all our coppice woodland is used for. It isn’t. There are thousands of people involved in working or managing coppice, either voluntarily, or in a bid to make a meagre income from it. Largely it’s because they feel it’s the right thing – money can’t be a factor in everything. And, as Monty points out so well, coppice and standards managed well is a sustainable resource which also provides a fantastic range of habitat.
There’s actually so much happening in woods all over the country. As Monty hints, most of us have no practical connection with woods and forests (or any other land for that matter). But he shouldn’t overlook the fine work already being done in the educational sector these days. So many friends with young school age kids tell me that their child is now getting out into the woods with Forest Schools or similar. This is hugely important for youngsters and for their parents, who are usually somewhat confused at first. Through their children they are too forging a link to nature and to woods.
That’s it, I’ll stop going on about Monty Don now as he’s not the reason I’m writing this. The reason is to point out that it’s easy for all of us, however experienced, to overlook the connection we already have and forget the sterling work already being done. Maybe it’s a drop in the ocean when you consider our precarious environmental position but it’s a great start.
Through my own experience of teaching people in the outdoors I have a window into the deep connection we all have with nature and, especially it seems, with woodland. Despite the concrete and bricks, this is where our heart lies. When we come to realise this our heart sings. It would be a foolish man that underestimates this.