Britain’s oldest national conservation body is fighting to save one of England’s most celebrated forests from being sold off.
The Open Spaces Society this evening threw its weight behind a campaign to save Nottinghamshire’s public forests, including Sherwood Forest, the site of Robin Hood’s legendary battles with the Sheriff of Nottingham.
The society pledged its support in the growing campaign against the coalition Government’s plans to privatise Forestry Commission land in England.
Speaking at a gathering of a local history forum this evening, OSS trustee Jean Macdonald said: “Nottinghamshire and the east Midlands have fewer open spaces than many parts of the country, because the inclosure movement, back in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, bit hard and deep.
“Large areas of common land were stolen from the people.
“So Nottinghamshire’s remaining open spaces, public woods and forests are of special importance, for recreation and refreshment. Places like Sherwood Pines and other woods, many of which are part of the ancient Sherwood Forest, are of immense public value.
“There is increasing evidence that access to green spaces is vital for both mental and physical health. The society is opposed to the sale of any publicly owned woods or forests unless the existing level of public access – or better – on foot, horse and bike, is guaranteed in perpetuity.
“The Government’s current proposals for selling Forestry Commission land do not provide those guarantees, so we are opposed to them.
“In any case, industry sources suggest that these sales are likely to raise less than half the money that the Government is hoping for, so they are a complete waste of time in the current financial climate.”
Sherwood Pines, at 1,335ha (3,300 acres) the largest single tract of forest open to the public in the East Midlands, is home to many mountain bike trails.
And though there are many theories as to the real identity of the mediaeval hero Robin Hood, the people of Nottinghamshire and Sherwood Forest have claimed the man who stole from the rich to give to the poor as their own and the Major Oak, a tree aged up to 1,000 years old in the forest, is reputed to be the outlaw’s hideout.