a people’s vision for the future of England’s woods and forests

Latest news on Our Forests

Our Forests is a ginger group that has been formed to ensure that the views of the more than half a million people who signed the 38 Degrees petition against the Government’s reprehensible plans to sell-off the Public Forest Estate in England are fully understood and taken into account by the Independent Panel on Forestry Policy in England.


On 17th February 2011, Defra Secretary of State Caroline Spelman announced the halting of the Government’s plans to ’dispose’ of the Public Forest Estate in England. A public consultation linked to the disposal plans was also terminated. This U-turn in Government policy followed five months of intensive campaigning led by the on-line activist group 38 Degrees alongside powerful grassroots protests across England.

Following this announcement an ‘Independent Panel of Experts’ was formed to report back to Government in Autumn 2011, with final recommendations on ‘the future direction of forestry & woodland policy in England’ due in Spring 2012. The panel is chaired by the well-respected Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Revd. James Jones, and includes senior figures from national bodies representing conservation, recreation and forestry interests.

There are however, real concerns as to how restricted and compromised the Panel will be by:

  • its terms of reference;
  • the role some of the national conservation bodies appeared to play during the national outcry against the sell-off plans;
  • the absence of any genuine grassroots representation on the panel.

Our Forests will seek answers to three key questions from panel members (read more), and will continue to monitor the work of the ‘Independent Panel’ and make interventions as necessary to ensure the public’s concerns and those of grassroots organisations are not by-passed by the Government.

Later in the year, Our Forests will work with 38 Degrees to fashion a People’s Vision for the Future of England’s Woodlands and Forests, which will be submitted to the Independent Panel as a critical input into its own deliberations.

Public forest sell-off
My Archive from 2010-11

Ten reasons why the public forest sale failed February 17, 2011
Local woods on the frontline February 12, 2011
Government climb down imminent February 11, 2011
Forests in public ownership – a European perspective February 2, 2011

read more …

Hands of our Forest
Independent Forestry Panel
Jonathon Porritt’s website
Tony Juniper’s blog
Save our Forests
Save our Woods
38 Degrees

Our Forests – posts
Our Forests – resources page

Our Forests – ginger group

Our Forests ginger group, July 2011. Left to right: Richard Daniels, Gabriel Hemery, Tony Juniper, Hen Anderson, Jonathon Porrit, Rod Leslie, Robin Maynard


Richard Daniels Chair of the campaigning group HOOF – Hands off our Forest in the Forest of Dean
Gabriel Hemery Chartered Forester, Co–founder & Chief Executive of the Sylva Foundation
Hen Anderson
Save our Woods
Tony Juniper Environmental Consultant & former Director, Friends of the Earth
Rod Leslie Chartered Forester & former Chief Executive, Forest Enterprise
Robin Maynard Former Head of Communications, Forestry Commission
Jonathon Porritt Founder Director, Forum for the Future

Gabriel Hemery


  1. Sorry guys, not sure you are “gingering” anything! A friendly, waspish response:

    The PFE you are so keen on is seventy two percent exotic conifers. Something like 15 square kilometres is clearfelled each year and in 2010 eighty percent of the replanting of felled areas was with another “rotation” of conifers at considerable public expense. Any thoughts on whether the ancient woodland sites are really being restored with enthusiasm by the FC? I hear the FE now think they are so safe they can relax about that.

    And you are navel gazing about whether there is something sinister about the Woodland Trust and the National Trust?

    Anything “ginger wise” on access to the huge proportion of private woodland not accessible to the public? The Ramblers have advocated a Scottish style open access law. Any thoughts on that or is it a bit too spicy!?

    1. Author

      I can always rely on your insights to get discussions going Alec!

      The PFE and exotic conifers

      Your use of the word ‘exotic’ is definitely your choice not mine. Shall we also include sweet chestnut, walnut and sycamore in your list of exotic? I think this issue, i.e. exotic concepts, is of the sector’s making and largely irrelevant to the wider public. Afterall, I cannot imagine a mountain biker enjoying an adrenalin rush in the spruce of Keilder or a family walking amongst the majestic firs of the Forest of Dean, being prejudiced. Quite the contrary, the character of these and other forests are now accepted as being a mix of broadleaved and coniferous. These species are here to stay, and indeed, may even thrive while our own ‘native’ (please provide a defendable definition) species are increasingly threatened by changing climate and new pests/diseases.

      Clearfell – I think there is lots the sector can do to reduce the social and environmental impact of felling by reducing reliance on clearfell although this will come at an expense that is difficult to meet in these challenging economic times. A lot of the clearfell you refer to is removal of stands that will not be replaced as the plantations created in the 1940s and 50s reach economic maturity.

      Restoration of Ancient Woodland sites – the FC have an exemplary record in many cases and do so more efficiently that some NGOs you may care to mention. That is not to say that they are perfect either. This will be addressed in our Vision.

      Naval gazing
      I totally agree and my personal interest is more in the Vision than in History. However, I really do believe that Our Forests has played a significant role in bringing both the Government and some of our major NGOs to account for their actions. They are now very aware that they ar being closely scrutinised. Also, it is very apparent that there were many actions and decisions taken that were not in the interests of the public: and our Government and the NGOs (as they are mostly charities) should put public interest first. I think it is right that we pursue our FoIs to uncover the truth. In particular, Defra’s response to the FoIs was wholly inadequate.

      Public access to private woodlands
      I have had this discussion with the Ramblers and there are a lot of issues to consider. I believe that we will be covering this issue in our Vision. Nothing is “too spicy” and we welcome all views. If you wanted to help in proposing a solution that might fit then I would be delighted to help you share it here, and feed it into our Visioning.

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