Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Into the Woods
The myth of the vast wildwood that cloaked most of medieval England in trees is of course just that - a myth (See Oliver Rackham, passim) - much more woodland was cleared or brought under management, much earlier, than was/is commonly supposed. However, the idea of the great wildwood has a strong pull. There is a special edge of wonder to walking in woodland - it feels like home, yet not like home - and a special edge of (at least half enjoyable) fear to getting thoroughly lost in woodland, as if the wildwood might reclaim us after all. Similarly (though here, as ever, I may only be speaking for myself), there's a special thrill in the prospect of more woodland - good broad-leaved woodland - being created in this under-wooded land. Now, by a happy convergence of 'climate change' and 'sustainability' preoccupations, it looks as if it's going to happen. This is a splendid piece of retroprogressive news, improving our world by returning it to something more like the past. My only reservation is that they might not pay enough attention to managing these vast new tracts of woodland. It's the neglect of proper woodland management - particularly creating the right kind of clearing at the right time of year - that has led to the decline of such woodland butterfly species as that pretty pearl-bordered fritillary that's perched on the corner of this post. If the Forestry Commission get this one right - particularly if they join up existing patches of woodland, creating 'corridors' between isolated communities - it should be good news for butterflies, as well as the rest of us.