I recently wrote about a short film that I’d made on behalf of the Sylva Foundation for the Forgotten Forests project, run by Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE).

I have been asked whether I could provide the full transcript.  I am pleased to offer it below.

Watch the film Britain’s Forgotten Forests

Gabriel Hemery

Britain’s Forgotten Forests

script for 2011 film short by the Sylva Foundation

Written and narrated: Gabriel Hemery (GH)

Camera:  Sarah Simblet

[railway carriage window]

Trees are the very heart of Britain’s landscape.   From majestic trees in fields and hedgerows, to copses in the rolling downs, to ancient hunting forests such as the New Forest, Sherwood, and the Forest of Dean.  How can Britain have “forgotten forests”?

Seen from the air, a train or the road, trees seem to be everywhere.  Even so, Britain is the second-least wooded country in Europe.

Britain was once almost entirely covered with trees.  By the early 20th Century however, just four percent of Britain was wooded.  As our trees disappeared, so did people’s connection with them.  We have forgotten how important trees are to us.

[car windscreen/mirror view of countryside]

We can’t afford the luxury of planting more trees merely for the sake of greening the landscape.  Trees need to work for us, while we protect them and make sure that they support wildlife.  We have forgotten the importance of working with nature and how this can be done at the same time as supporting rural economies.

We use a great deal of timber in Britain – it is our sixth largest import.  In terms of hardwoods alone, we import 1 million tonnes a year.  But we’ve seem to have forgotten that this timber comes from trees.  When we can it must be better to use home-grown timber than to import timber cut from someone else’s forests, perhaps thousands of miles away.

[GH arrival at woodland in car and walking in]

It’s a shocking fact that we don’t know much about our woodlands.  We don’t know who owns many of them and so it’s difficult to work with the owners towards common goals, such as improving their condition or producing materials.  Even worse, a large number of them are potentially unmanaged.

[GH walking through woodland]

In England the area of forests without management plans, the foundation of sustainable forest management, is equivalent to a 5 mile-wide wall of trees stretching over 450 miles long – running the entire length of England, from Truro to Newcastle.  Woodlands in Scotland and Wales are in much the same condition.  Some would say that these woodlands are forgotten or even neglected.

[GH to camera]


  • We’ve forgotten or take for granted how important trees are to us.
  • We’ve forgotten that woods need to be managed to support the wildlife that we cherish.
  • We’ve forgotten the importance of economics in woodland creation and management.
  • A large number of woodlands are forgotten and moribund – woodland owners need support and encouragement.

[GH walking away from woodland into open countryside – from behind, trees in foreground]

The Sylva Foundation, is a tree and forestry charity working to ensure that Britain’s woodlands thrive economically and environmentally for the benefit of everyone.

Woodlands can help us meet challenging times ahead in managing carbon and producing sustainable materials, and they will be important in helping us and wildlife cope with climate change.  They will help protect and provide for mankind long after my life has passed, and yours.  Let’s make sure that they are not forgotten.


  1. I would just love England to have at least thirty five per cent woodland cover. That’s how it should be.

    1. Author

      Wouldn’t that be fantastic … we would link up all our major woodlands together, with small woods providing nodes between. Our hedges could have standard trees added routinely, and all those wasteful field corners the modern plough can’t reach could be planted with wildlife-rich scrub.
      Nature could move freely across the countryside.
      Then there’s our towns and cities. We could create forest cities linking urban areas to green corridors.
      How can we make this happen . . . it need not be a fruitless dream?

  2. Stumbled across this from NZ and can’t believe peope in Britain are neglecting trees!
    Kate Moriarty

  3. How true!….The tree is part of Nature as we human beings are.It lives ..and to live it has to defend itself.and fights even against the other species, because woodland trees are competing with each others to survive…
    we hope nature will survive even if ever mankind came to disappear, because ” nature for its part has nothing to do with men” …May be it could develop its own survival scheme if men would at last leave wild woodland expanses breathing on their own……

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