Thursday, February 03, 2011

Letter to my MP on selling off the woodland

Okay, so I appreciate that this blog is supposed to be about learning, but it might be argued I learnt something about how I feel about this while penning a missive to Stephen Williams, my local LibDem member of Parliament. I was inspired by an article on what the forest sell off might mean to Bristol MTBers.
Throughout my life I've had opportunities to spend lots of time in forests - hiking, barbecuing, playing in streams, bird watching and mountain biking - though a son of this city I grew up in the Shropshire Marches and spent many weekends and evenings in the local woods with my friends and family. They are a playground I have returned to time and again.

And I can hardly think of a time when I haven't done so on land managed by the Forestry Commission. So it causes me great anguish to know that this government, that I in part voted for, and encouraged people to vote for - to vote for you - is now suggesting that it sell off the trees and neuter an organisation I have immense respect for.

I'm not some dumb-ass hippy tree hugger who would care more about what happens to a tree than a person. But it is this action more than any other that causes me to feel aggrieved by what I voted for.

What annoys me is that by deigning to flog off this land, and special entity that lives upon it, this government appears to indicate that it believes it owns this land. No, the government holds it in trust for the people that legitimise it. Sure, keep people off the nuclear base at Faslane, or away from motorway construction sites - there are greater needs in the public interest at work - I accept that - but don't sell off the trees.

In particular, these days I go mountain biking locally near Ashton Court and at locations around Wales. These places are graded amongst the best locations for the sport anywhere in the world - mile after mile of wonderful man made trails that develop riders' skills and test them again and again. Each week thousands of riders make the same trips to these places, spending money in local shops and cafes, staying in local hotels and pubs. In the afternoons, as they stream off the hill, they share the same broad grin and look of satisfaction at a day on earth well spent.

But none of these centres would be feasible if private landowners had to meet the costs of insuring for the sport. Only the FC is able to do this. Without the FC these trail centres would close, and the tourism they attract, month in, month out, would die out. Taking precious money from already poor regions (like the valleys of South Wales) and robbing people of a fun and healthy past time.

It's easy to see now that Beeching's solution to the size of the rail network was woeful and short-sighted. Stephen, don't let your parliamentary colleagues make a similar terrible mistake - one that will live in infamy far beyond your time in the Palace of Westminster.
Hmm, will try not to be too political again for a while. I'll leave that to Twitter.
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