‘I want you to fell it’ - Germaine Greer outrages volunteers as she advocates felling of Thetford Forest in controversial BBC Radio Four Farming Today interview
PUBLISHED: 09:48 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 08:29 21 March 2017
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2015
It is one of the most beautiful and historic parts of the country, with 18,730 hectares of stunning woodland and precious trees which have lived for decades.
But a celebrity has today advocated felling the picturesque Thetford Forest which attracts thousands of tourists every year - to the dismay of Norfolk residents and volunteers who work so hard to maintain it as one of the countryside’s best assets.
Australian-born writer and prominent feminist Germaine Greer was being interviewed on BBC Radio Four’s Farming Today programme as part of a series of programmes asking leading figures in public life on their views about agriculture after Brexit.
During the interview, broadcast at 5.45am today, she said: “People think Thetford Forest is a woodland.
“They say: ‘What do you want us to do with the woodland? Do you want us to sell it?’
“I say: ‘No, I want you to fell it.’
“And they say: ‘Oh! But you’d be cutting down trees.
“I say: ‘Yes, they shouldn’t be there.’ This is a much more precious habitat than a bit of old Scot’s pine.
“Come on - people think that trees will last forever and that you should never remove a tree, but they don’t and we know that trees in public places drop branches.
“People have got to be more aware of the natural world and what it takes to manage it properly, but they’re not.”
Anne Mason, chairman of the Friends of Thetford Forest - a volunteer group which aims to increase people’s understanding and use of the forest - said Ms Greer “appears to disregard the value of Thetford Forest for timber production, wildlife, archaeology and recreation”.
Mrs Mason added that the Friends “clearly needs to continue its campaign so that future generations can enjoy and benefit from Thetford Forest”.
She pointed out that the area is “of high conservation value, designated an internationally important Special Protection Area (SPA) for its woodlark and nightjar and a nationally designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its birds, plants, terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates and geology”.
She went on to say: “The forest’s mosaic of different habitats provides the wildlife corridors which Ms Greer advocates to enable species to move freely through the countryside.
“In fact, the forest has a Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) designation encompassing the 1,300ha of Breck-type open grassland within it, managed for its rare wildlife by the Forestry Commission in partnership with conservation organisations.
“Beneath the trees are prehistoric flint mines, Bronze Age burial mounds - probably the most extensive medieval warrening archaeology anywhere, gunflint mines and First and Second World War sites.
“In particular, Thetford Forest is a working landscape, producing timber for the nation and providing employment not only for foresters but for contractors, sawmillers, hauliers and tourism-related businesses.
“Far from being ‘a bit of old Scots’ Pine’, Corsican Pine, Douglas Fir, Larch, Weymouth Pine and broadleaves are also grown.
“In 2014, Thetford Forest won a Royal Forestry Society award for its experimental planting schemes trialling a range of species to mitigate the effects of climate change.
“It is a significant open access space in East Anglia and attracts regular visitors within a 50-mile radius who come to enjoy the varied outdoor recreation opportunities it offers.”
“How can Ms Greer justify the loss of the largest lowland pine forest in the country which has a proven record for delivering for timber production, wildlife and people?”
The Forestry Commission has been contacted by this paper for comment but so far has not responded.
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