In April I achieved my ambition of acquiring a small piece of woodland. It was partly a decision of the heart, but it was also a decision of the head to invest a part of a legacy from my mother which might have simply lain in a bank account with little prospect of growth given low interest rates.
My joy in finally acquiring the site eight months after our offer was accepted was deeply felt. A short tweet about this felt entirely in keeping with my social media history and profile which includes quite a few woody tweets, so off it pinged into the twittersphere on Easter Sunday.
To my surprise, the tweet went viral for the first and probably what will be the only time in my life. Mesmerised, I watched the numbers clock up to reach 10.7k likes and half a million impressions in three days, highly gratifying for someone with just a few hundred followers.
But in fact it was the content of the hundreds of comments posted on my feed which astonished me most. People I don’t even know and almost certainly will never meet flooded me with reactions which were without exception positive. A few proffered pieces of practical advice about what to do with the wood. Most simply provided very personal reactions in an outpouring of raw powerful emotion which caught me off guard by its scale and intensity.
Owning a wood is clearly an unfulfilled and unfulfillable dream for many. The phrase ‘its my dream, you are so lucky’ was repeated time and again. Others responded to the visual spring time beauty of the wood from the picture of bluebells and celandine in bloom and a path leading off invitingly into the distance. The yearning to be outside in the woods in peace and quiet was palpable, the desire to be close to nature and under the comforting embrace of a woodland canopy very strong.
I say all this because this gave me a jolt. It reminded me how privileged I am to be able to fulfil this dream and how deeply connected those responding are with woods even if they belong to someone else. These are people for whom woods are a window into another view of the world – whether they are members of the Woodland Trust or other wildlife groups, those who walk in the public forest estate and take their children on Gruffalo trails, those who protest against the uncessary removal of street trees or against the disposal of the public forest estate, those who help to plant trees for the Queen’s Jubilee, those who try and do the right thing by buying responsibly, or those for whom woods are a nostalgic link with their own childhood. These are the sleeping guardians who may rise up at any time to make their voices heard.
It made me think that as forestry and woodland professionals it's good to be reminded of this from time to time. Forest professionals are often very down to earth people who have a strong sense of vocation and commitment. While we need to practise our discipline using our heads, our best knowledge and sound evidence to make the right decisions, it is also entirely in keeping to use our hearts from time to time to communicate the passion and emotion we too feel for our work, and to savour and communicate the privileges which come with working with woods and trees. It’s just fine in the middle of a busy and perhaps seemingly unproductive day occasionally to stop and breathe in the magic, and remind ourselves why we are doing this.
This is forestry from the heart as well as from the head – it can help to re-energise us in busy and stretching times with momentum and a sense of positivity in how lucky anyone who owns or manages a wood really is.