Our life on Earth is entwined with trees, even if we’re not always aware of their importance. It often takes a special moment for us remember the significance of something we can so easily take for granted. The Year 2017 is one such moment for trees and forests in the UK, this being the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest.
In 1217, all of the rules contained in the 1215 version of Magna Carta which related to forests were defined in a separate dedicated charter called the Charter of the Forest.
The National Archives provide a simplified transcript:
Edward by the Grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Guyan, to all to whom these presents shall come, sends greeting: we have seen the charter of the Lord Henry our father, sometime King of England, concerning the Forest in these words. Henry, by the Grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Guyan and Earl of Anjou, to all archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, justicers, foresters, sheriffs, provosts, officers, and to all his bailiffs, and faithful subjects which shall see this present charter, greeting. For the honour of Almighty God, and for the salvation of our soul and the souls of our ancestors and successors, to the advancement of Holy Church, and amendment of our realm, we have, of our mere and free will have given and granted, to all archbishops, bishops, earls, barons and to all of this our realm, these liberties, following, to be kept in our kingdom of England forever.
(1) First, we order that all lands which became forest under King Henry II, our grandfather, shall be examined by good and lawful men; and if these investigations find that Henry II created forest on land that did not rightfully belong to the king, this land shall no longer be considered forest.
(9) And if the swine of any freeman sleeps one night within our forest, he should not lose any of his property as punishment.
(10) Henceforth, no man shall lose his life or suffer the amputation of any of his limbs for killing our deer. If any man is convicted of killing our deer, he shall pay a grievous fine, but if he is poor and has nothing to lose, he shall be imprisoned for a year and a day. After the year and a day expired, if he can find people to vouch for him, he shall be released; if not, he shall be banished from the realm of England.
More than 50 organisations representing a wide range of interests—led by Woodland Trust—are standing together during 2017 to call for a new charter which is called the Charter for Trees, Woods and People.
Through collecting stories about what trees and woods mean to people, the movement is building a picture of their value to everyone in the UK. These stories will be used to create a set of guiding principles, around which the Charter will be written. The final Charter for Trees, Woods and People will influence policy and practice and celebrate the role that trees and woods play in our lives.
The new Charter for Trees, Woods and People will launch on November 6th 2017, the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest. Before this there will more and more activities getting underway with opportunities for everyone to get involved.
- Find out more by visiting a dedicated website at www.treecharter.uk.
- You can share your own story on the website
- Tweeting your story using the #treecharter tag (tweets will appear on a tagboard)
- Find your nearest Charter branch
- Woodland owners can complete a simple survey – see www.sylva.org.uk/myforest/charter