Thomas Hardy used the fictional Egdon Heath in his novels to exemplify untameable nature whose enemy was civilisation.
Since Hardy was born, the area of lowland heathland has shrunken considerably and since he died the rate of loss accelerated. Some has been lost to housing, some to agriculture and much to forestry plantations. Where pine plantations have been planted there is still a window of opportunity to restore the land to heath after the crop of trees is harvested. And government policy has long been for more of this to happen but the Forestry Commission has been slow to move on this subject.
Lowland heath is an internationally important habitat - rare in world terms and unlucky enough to have been common in southern England where decades of human pressure have been greatest. The Lawton report could easily have had lowland heath in mind when it called for more, bigger, better managed and better connected habitat areas - but then again that is the refrain that applies to most habitats of conservation interest.
The RSPB has been involved in restoring heathland on many sites - here at The Lodge for one, but also places like Farnham Heath too. It can be done, and it can be popular too, once one gets over the knee-jerk reaction that any tree is a good tree even if it is an American species planted in sterile rows across a previously nature-rich habitat.
Given the huge scale of loss of heath it is surely time to 'Lawtonise' heathland and make a real difference to its extent over the next few decades. Think what a cultural asset it would be in the crowded south of England to have more areas for recreation and enjoyment of nature.
Firstly Mark best wishes on your new adventures.
Jockyshield and Nightjar have nailed it very well and I accept Bob apology in full. Given all the other reasons why we need to be more pragmatic in our approach to nature, it would seem further promotion of a purest approach to Lawsonisation is the last thing we need.
The problems we face are not with our excellent ground level staff, although I reserve an exclusion for the activities at Farnham Heath, which have polarised the locals and isolated us with other landowners.
We should shine a light on senior RSPB people to be truly applied in their approach to nature conservation. If we could lose some of their uncompromising approaches to farmers and forester, then more of our aims could be achieved in partnership.
Sadly, our recent involvement in recent forestry débâcle, we have shown everyone we are willing mercenaries to ideology and bad policy, even if it meet our aims, and is against the public interest. Do you truly believe people trust us now?
Trees good, dogma bad.
Redkite - the policy was complete over a year ago........
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