Monday, 27 February 2012

Slowly, but surely

How long does it take to make a new woodland? Well, on the face of it about ten years. By chance I found myself in south Derbyshire at the weekend almost exactly a decade since I moved on from a job with the National Forest Company.
You may not have heard about the National Forest, it doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Set up in the early 1990s, it's a landscape-scale experiment that is working to re-forest a chunk of the Midlands that had been scarred by a couple of centuries of mining.
When I worked with the project lots of planting had already happened, but there was much still to be done. I was there when the target of five million trees planted was reached.
Apparently now they've got close to eight million. That has pushed forest cover up from six per cent at the start to about 19 per cent now.
It was good to go back as a visitor. We did a bit of walking, went to the visitor centre and rode on the little train. All the touristy things.
The project got some national media coverage in its first couple of years, but then journalists got bored with the story. The news media can't deal with the long-term.
After a bit we became the butt of jokes and the National Forest got tagged the 'National Forest of Sticks'.  Lots of treeguards, not many trees.
So, it was great to be back on a sunny, early spring day and be surrounded by trees - not sticks. I remember wading around in mud on bleak hillsides on cheerless winter's days tree-planting with schoolkids. Now, although there isn't  'proper' woodland yet, it's well on the way. It warmed the cockles of my heart.

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