An Englishman’s home might be his castle, but he also feels very defensive about his countryside – and forests – as recent outrage has shown following government plans to sell off some of its woodland.

As a keen rambler whose walks often include forests, bluebell woods and sheltered glades, I add my voice to those who have expressed concern.  On the one hand ramblers are close to celebrating the opening of the first England Coast Path around England, while at the same time fearing the loss of forests to walk through freely. It’s the issue of access which is of greatest concern rather than ownership as walking through forests is not only a great joy, but also perceived as a natural right for all country lovers, particularly if they are presently accessible. I have enjoyed walks in the Forest of Dean and  spent hours Thetford Forest with my family when they were young and is on our doorstep; it is a hugely popular attraction in East Anglia.

I feel sorry for Conservative MPs who have to defend this proposal and may even share the same concerns – especially if they have been warned they could lose their parliamentary seat over it..  Theresa Coffey recently faced the wrath of protesters over these plans in her constituency. The East Anglian Daily Times reported how the hall was “packed to the rafters” and nearly 150 people were left standing outside in the cold because they could not get inside the room. They signed an on-the-spot petition demanding another meeting with their MP, which Dr Coffey has said she is happy to have.

They made their strong views very plain to the Suffolk Coastal MP, and warned she could lose her seat if she did not support them. According to the East Anglian….:

The heated meeting was attended by a range of woodland users from ramblers, mountain bikers and horse riders through to professional foresters, wildlife enthusiasts and dog walkers.

There were passionate calls for the forests to be left alone and fierce criticism of the proposals – with particular fears over what would happen to public access should they fall into private hands.

Those who attended made it very clear that they expected Dr Coffey to represent their views in Parliament and to not tow the party line – or run the risk of losing her seat.

It’s the kind of fierce public reaction witnessed when there are fears of a gypsy encampment or incinerator being built within the midst of an outraged community. This plan  has pierced the very heart of grassroot Tories too, according to this Daily Telegraph report. Let’s hope the message gets through

Pic: Courtesy of the Daily Telegraph.