Laughable Excuses for Savernake Forest Proposals  

Last week I tried to convey how Savernake Forest has fond memories for all who live nearby it, and how it’s cherished by users in the same manner today, in the wake of a publication by Forestry England called “Our Shared Forest.” Ironic by title, it seemed to propose restricting the public to set walking trails at the Postern Hill site, extending the carpark and forcing people to pay for the privilege of using it. We’ve since heard back from Forestry England, as I emailed them the article, though I believe they’ve not quite got over All Fools Day……

A Forestry England spokesperson explained, “Since Our Shared Forest was published, there have been many reports misrepresenting an internal discussion document called ‘A Way Forward’, which was prepared at the request of our landlord, the Savernake Estate. This paper makes no formal proposals for the Forest. It was drafted in response to concerns raised by the Estate regarding the impact of public access, particularly in light of growing visitor numbers since the start of the COVID pandemic.”

Their wishy-washy, ‘we were just having a laugh, you know, didn’t mean it,’ excuses continues thus, “The document explores potential ways we might work to deliver some of our management commitments within Our Shared Forest. A number of our aspirations for a sustainable and resilient Savernake can only be achieved with Estate consent, so early discussion between tenant and landlord is essential. Public access within Savernake Forest has always been with the agreement of the Estate. Any changes to public access can only happen with the consent of the Estate trustees. That internal document has been extensively quoted out of context so we have published it in full on our website so that the community may read it themselves.”

“We recognise and appreciate the great depth of affection felt for Savernake Forest. In response to the extraordinary level of interest in Our Shared Forest, we have extended our feedback survey until 22nd April to ensure as many people as possible are able to review the information and have their say.” The document is HERE.

So, what? They were just brainstorming, you know, knocking some ideas across the table, oh, cheeky monkeys. Call me stupid, I’ve been called far worse, but why would you even contemplate closing the forest, and even if you thought it might be something worthy of acting on, why would you publish your inane plotting online?! It’s not “misrepresenting” at all, it clearly states, “The redevelopment of Postern Hill would be coupled with the closure of the Grand Avenue, and indeed the rest of the Forest for vehicular access by visitors.”

Yet it apparently makes “no formal proposals for the Forest,” and “Any changes to public access can only happen with the consent of the Estate trustees,” begging the question, what was the point in it anyway, then, being owner of the forest Lord Cardigan has been on the telebox, I see the dude, strongly objecting to the notion?!

This change of heart/pathetic excuse (delete as appropriate) has nothing to do, either, with Marlborough Times reporting the “applause after applause” from a large crowd resounding throughout the Court Room in the Town Hall at Monday 11th April’s full Town Council meeting, “where councillors vented their opposition to Forestry England’s ‘internal’ suggestion to close Savernake Forest to all vehicles,” then?!

The article rightfully states, “Councillor Nick Fogg was vehement in his condemnation of the ‘plans’ presented by Forestry England, and whilst in their defence, they claimed that their words had been ‘misrepresented’, Councillor Fogg made clear that, having (like all other Councillors) read and digested the Forestry England ‘internal discussion document’ in its entirety that in his view it ‘was a serious proposal’.”

I, as I’m sure most others were overjoyed to read that, “in the end Councillors voted emphatically and unanimously to object to any such proposals, echoing the resounding opinion of the community at large and those packing the hall,” because whoever concocted this daft-as-a-brush proposal sure has an egg factory on their stupid face!

I also love that the paper classed it ‘Disneyfication.’ As in: “Next step? A statement from either Forestry England or the Forestry Commission setting out exactly what they are proposing regarding vehicular access, the future of the Postern Hill car park (enlarging to 350 cars / ‘Disneyfication’ / charging?) and if they are really going to ‘develop’ this part of Savernake Forest to commercial ends with the ecological consequences. Or let the natural and glorious beauty of Savernake Forest be there for all to enjoy.” The finale of which is perfect. Explore the Grand Avenue area of Savernake and you will find some deep craters, my good friend who grew up in forest referred to them as “bomb holes.”

Now, I always believed it was just a term of phrase, pondering why German WW2 pilots would target a forest, until the day I took my son to a war exhibit at Wiltshire Museum and perchance to browse some old photos with an informative chap, who was a police officer during the era. I found a photo of the gates of Grand Avenue, heavily guarded, and asked him what was happening here. He told me it was a bomb disposal area, and the penny dropped.

And here’s why I bring the subject up: those bomb-holes today are teeming with life, shrubs, grass and trees have grown over them, wildlife nests inside, because a forest replenishes itself over time, naturally, because, well, because it’s a blooming forest and that’s what forests do! You’d have thought an organisation called Forestry England might’ve figured this out themselves. No matter what damage a man walking his dog, a family enjoying a picnic or even, dare I say it, minor acts of anti-social behaviour, might cause in the forest, they cannot be any worse than exploding a WW2 bomb, you’d have thought?!

Leaving me to conclude, for what it’s worth, this proposal was as predicted, simply a suggestion to profiteer from people’s freedom to roam this beautiful feature on our Wiltshire landscape, disingenuously disguised as attempting to environmentally aid it; what a terrible, greedy thought bubble. I’ve got to leave it there, for the sake of my blood pressure.

Though to fully conclude, please, I beg of every potential fly-tipper, litterbug and general knuckle-dragger, please don’t fuel their fire, and give them opportunity or an excuse to pursue this, respect and look after our forests and woodlands, please; I asked nicely, three times at the last count!


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