Sat on their arse in their four-wheel drive

I’m angry. Very angry indeed. Regular readers won’t find my displeasure over many of the actions of the coalition government at all surprising. Having been in power for less than twelve months, without an outright majority, the Conservative Party simply do not have the mandate to do many of the things they are doing. I’m worried about the break up of the public sector, downgrading of the NHS, devaluing of education and constant, gratuitous attacks on the poor and vulnerable. I’m angry about the posturing, arrogance and full-speed attempt to craft our society into some Franklin Mint inspired model of an imagined past, full of benevolent Victorian paternalists, kindly toffs and a forelock-tugging, grateful poor. One of the things I’m most angry about is the headlong rush to dispose of our woodlands to the highest commercial bidder. Quite simply, how dare this government of chancers and spivs attempt to sell what is commonwealth to each and every one of us?


Wolseley Plain, Cannock Chase. 4:23pm, Sunday, 30th January 2011.

People who’ve followed this blog for any length of time will know just how much I adore the Staffordshire – and by extension, British – countryside. In particular, I have a fondness for Cannock Chase that goes beyond mere enjoyment; it’s a true emotional attachment spanning many years. I love to walk or cycle in this oasis of heath and woodland. I take in the Wildlife, the dramatic scenery, the peace of the quiet places. I listen to the birdlife – the hoots of owls in the dusk, the moan of distant, discordant deer and the musical twitter of songbirds.

Young wild fallow deer I filmed at Penkridge Bank, 3:45pm, Sunday, 30th January 2011.

I also love the busy bits of Cannock Chase, where the cyclists and walkers hang out, like the visitors centres at Marquis Drive and Birches Valley. Here there are walks marked out for those of all abilities. There are simple, easy-going bike trails, or the more advanced technical mountain courses, built voluntarily by Chase Trails, and reckoned to be amongst the finest in the country. There are outdoor education facilities, and an aerial adventure course.


Birches Valley - always good for cake and a chat. 3:38pm, Sunday, 30th January 2011.

The most important thing about the forest I love is that it’s fully accessible to all. Simple enjoyment of all that nature has to offer is free and easy at the point of delivery, and this largely commercial woodland has been expertly and carefully managed by the Forestry Commission for the benefit of all concerned for decades.

Those of us who frequent this natural wonder understand the commercial worth of this verdant asset and have immense respect for those who cultivate it and care for it on our behalf. The skill and care of the foresters, lumberjacks, rangers and arborealists cannot be understated. We watch the seasons as the woods mature, and marvel at their harvesting and replanting. A truly sustainable enterprise in this most sensitive of natural environments.


Chase users understand the commercial nature of the forest. 1:45pm, Friday, 2nd January 2009.

It seems to me that the Forestry Commission – charged with looking after a hefty chunk of the UK’s commercial and ancient woodlands – would be an excellent example of social society in action. Sadly, this doesn’t fit in with the Cameron ideological drive to destroy the public sector and all it stands for, regardless of the social cost. I can’t help feeling that our current government of privately rich, over privileged monetarists are punishing the lower orders for daring to rise above their class. What else can explain the constant mauling of the poor for the sins of the wealthy investor?

The woodland we love will be sold to the highest bidder if we cannot stop the zealots in power from pursuing their twisted commercial aims. This isn’t Big Society at all, but a distorted, small coterie of businessman with distinctly Small Society ideals. People who have known the joy and wonder of a free forest could never endanger it. What clearer sign could there be that those who would do so have no love for us, our country or its assets?

Wild fallow deer herd filmed at Rifle Range Corner, 3:58pm, Sunday, 30th January 2011.

I implore all who love Cannock Chase, and all our other woodlands under threat to sign petitions, write letters and join in the battle against the plans of a clearly recidivist Conservative party and its Liberal Democrat lapdogs. They say the woodlands will be safe, but we were told there would be no rise in tuition fees, VAT or NHS cuts. Put simply, this government cannot be trusted. Turning the country upside down to shake the loose change from our pockets, those who got us into this mess sit laughing on the sidelines, whilst the damage they do will be beyond correction. This is the worst legislation for public access to the countryside since the enclosure acts.

Those brave walkers who undertook the mass trespass on Kinder Scout nearly eight decades ago fought for our right to enjoy the country in which we live. Lets not let them down. In the words of Maggie Holland, so emotively sung by June Tabor:

Room for vole and room for orchid
Room for all to grow and thrive
Just less room for the fat landowner
On his arse in his four-wheel drive

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10 Responses to Sat on their arse in their four-wheel drive

  1. Nick says:

    I can’t believe the Cameron cronies are posed to rampage our heritage…!! The whole of the Midlands/Black Country needs to rise up to this …Its absolutely despicable..! but unfortunately the true face of a typical unpassionate descriminating tory government…(note thats tory with a SMALL ‘T’.. ! )… I also encourage EVERYONE to sign petitions…There is atleast 1 major group on FACE BOOK which I think has a base at Hednesford area if I recall.
    PLEASE PRINT OT OUT…SIGN AND RETURN IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE..! Lets take care our some of the last areas of our English culture before its bulldozed for extra cash in the pockets of the already discustingly rich un-carers.. !

  2. Richard Burnell says:

    I too love Cannock Chase. I haven’t seen an explanation anywhere of what ‘Selling Forests’ actually means in practice though. I agree wholly with everything you have said about what a precious resource countryside and forest land is.

    Is the fear surrounding this issue that once in private ownership these lands will be divided up and sold off for development? Or perhaps the ‘pursuit of profit’ will lead to unsustainable forest management? Are there other practical concerns such as loss of rights of way?

    I guess these are the threats of privatisation, but would welcome any confirmation that I am barking up the right tree here (pardon the pun).

    • Hi Richard

      If it works, don’t fix it. The Forestry Commission do an excellent job, and cost very, very little with huge benefit to wider society. The FC has spent the decades since it’s formation rebuilding our natural forests after being destroyed in private hands once before.

      Commercial interests will bid to make a profit. It’s feared that this will cause limitations to access rights (as has happened when public land has been sold off before) and intrusive developments and compounding – like Centreparks etc. as well as the spectre of building and development encroachment.

      People who currently use the Chase – from Orienteers, ramblers, twitchers, cyclists through off roaders (legally) and even husky sled teams – fear that they will either end up not having access at all or being charged prohibitive costs to use what they do now, largely for free.

      On the Chase you have huge areas of ancient woodland like Brocton Coppice that require careful and expensive care, particularly in these times of broadleaf parasites. The fear is that private owners will not be motivated to care.

      This change would be gratuitous and unnecessary. It smacks of ideology rather than sense and I fear this government cannot be trusted.

      All the best


  3. Richard Burnell says:

    Thank you, that puts some nice weight behind the argument. I have already encountered the argument that opposition to privatisation of forest land is merely ‘left wing’ hyperbole. Sadly (albeit predictably) the argument above don’t seem to be cutting through much in the media.

    I don’t know if you have seen this, 15 mins in, watch the lady from 38 degrees get a fraction of air time and shouted down by the ‘impartial’ journalist and ‘Captain of industry.’ Hmmmm.

  4. martin says:

    As ever, an eloquent argument against what looks like a Thatcherite plan to sell public assets to tory party cronies and benefactors.
    Apparentlythough, not a ‘done deal’ but up for ‘consultation’, but will probably go ahead quietly once we’ve been distracted by some other bad news generated by another of their mad schemes, or possibly by Eric Pickles and Michael Gove.
    But how do you stop the buggers?
    I take my kids to Birches Valley at regular intervals and we buy our christmas trees from them.
    I’ve signed the petition and I’ve pestered my mates to do so.
    I drew the line at going to the Sugababes concert in 2009 but I’ve written to David Winnick (although I’m not holding my breath on that front, if I’m honest) so I’m at a bit of a loss to know what else to do.
    Got any suggestions?

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  6. Richard Burnell says:

    Well now… Looks like the potato got a bit too hot for Cameron & co. Is this the end of the debate or is a back door still open? Dare we claim Victory?

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