There’s something that I never believed would happen. Along with actually caring what profile a window frame was, and becoming an expert on problem solving in Club-Penguin land. It is very much akin to seeing your reflection and thinking “wow that old bloke is what I’ll look like in 20 years“.
But even a man so incurious to the working of politics, and apathetic to the power of lazy can only take so much. The government’s selling off of the publically owned forests is, at best rushed and ill thought out and – at worst – spiteful and stupid.
Sure, the specific issue for Mountain Bikers is the lack of legislation to retain access to the trails, but there is a much wider point here. If something is held in trust for the public, then there is significantly less pressure for it to turn a fast buck. Throw open ownership to private-for-profit companies, and any pre-sale weaseling promising altruism and philanthropy are lost in the quest for maximum shareholder value.
And you can absolutely see their point. They want no part in possible litigation if accidents happen on their land. A rider (be that on a bike or a horse) adds zero value to their bottom line, so why would they extend access rights to these groups? The CROW legislation of 2000 enshrines the rights of the much more powerful rambling bodies to roam over the land, but the rest of us were no-so-politely ignored when asking for similar protection.
Forests are fun places. Not just for me and the jealous protection of much loved trails. But for everyone; special places are found under the trees, there is a sense of peace and oneness with nature. They are full of light, texture and things to prod, poke and explore. The value of providing this kind of environment for the public has inestimable value that you cannot put a price on.
But the Government has.£100 million apparently. It’s a big number but against a deficit of billions, it’s not even a stone in the water. It’s enough to make you angry and it absolutely should although I doubt my MP will lose any sleep over losing my vote, with his 15,000 majority and Tory view of the world*
I’ll not let that stop me at least having a voice in the debate. Already many have signed up to the 38 degrees petition and, more locally, to HOOF supporting the Forest of Dean. I know I have. In response, there are the expected charges of hysteria and misunderstanding spouted by the mouthpieces of government. But a precent was set only a few months ago when an FC wood was sold off a few miles from here.
Previously it had FC sanctioned trails and was a fun place to ride. The first action of the new owners was to erect massive “No CYCLING” signs and randomly police it with angry men carrying shotguns. It’s hard to see how there can be any winners in the forest sell, other than those whose quest for profit will be in direct conflict with public access.
And if that isn’t worth a bit of community action, I don’t know what is.
* There’s a fantastic old story where Lord Chesterfield was showing some Etonion Chum around his new estate. The high point was a visit to a huge tower with panoramic views in every direction. Apparently the stuffed shirt was so impressed he declared “Good Lord Chesterfield, you can almost see Poverty from here“.