800 years ago, a momentous decision was made by Henry III. In 1217, he signed the Charter of the Forest which reversed William the Conqueror’s edicts that had barred ordinary people from the royal hunting forests for 150 years. By re-establishing these rights, Henry once again gave people access to their local woods for vital resources such as firewood, building materials and livestock fodder.
In these modern times our woods are again under threat, this time from motorways to housing estates - potential losses that are of course irreversible. Those of us who walk in them value the woods as places of quiet refuge and havens for wildlife.
The timely launch of the Charter for Trees, Woods and People on 6 November is supported by major environmental organisations, councils, unions and other influential national bodies. Locally, we are fortunate to have Sherrardspark Wood (Site of Special Scientific Interest) so close to the Garden City for all to visit.
The volunteer group Sherrardspark Wood Wardens has proudly worked for 50 years with the Council in its ongoing programme to maintain the wood, keeping it healthy and diverse in wildlife for the enjoyment of local people for many decades to come. But we can all do something to support the preservation of our remaining fragmented and eroded woods simply by signing the new Charter.
Volunteer, Sherrardspark Wood Wardens
[First published as a letter to Welwyn Hatfield Times on 8 November 2017]