Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

Modern Times- the Dinosaur column

In Dinosaur on December 16, 2010 at 10:37 am

Woodman, spare that tree!

I almost feel sorry for Mark Harper. Almost, but not quite. Here he is, caught on the horns of a dilemma. He’s a junior minister in a government that’s decided to cut the Forestry Commission down to size, and force it to sell off half its estate. And here’s our Mark, representing a Forest constituency in which the vast majority of voters are up in arms against the threat to their woodlands.

What can our MP do about it? As part of the Government he can’t speak out or vote against its proposals. He could of course resign his position – but can we really see our Mark letting go of the greasy pole that he’s clinging to? I don’t think so!

So all he can do is try to justify the Government’s plans for the Forest. It won’t mean cutting down thousands of trees, he assures us. Neither will it involve making vast swathes of our woodland reserves into “no go” areas for Forest folk. Indeed, he tries to tell us, it will open up new opportunities, in which we can all participate. So far he’s been a bit vague about the details. he prefers to talk of “a number of new ownership options and the means to secure public benefits.” Oh, yeah? Maybe we could all “adopt a tree”, and go out to give it a big hug when we feel the need.

The other week, I took a Dinosaur-style amble up into the Forest, to enjoy the last of the Autumn colours. Up at Mallards Pike there were families, with dogs and children, doing much the same – though most of them were moving rather more quickly than I was. The banks of mature trees and the hidden paths that led into the quiet places in the depths of the Forest, are there for all of us to enjoy, young and old. Courting couples gained their “fern licence” out there in the woodland undergrowth. Age-old traditions linger on in the Dean – and the Government interferes with them at its peril.

Creaming off the charities:

With Cameron’s “big society” kicking in, how do our charities fit in to the general scheme of things? They don’t seem to be doing too well, I’m afraid. I’ve had a number of phone calls recently from charitable bodies, asking for donations. But with money in short supply, there’s only so much one can do.

All these cold callers are glib and persuasive – and I suspect from private telemarketing companies hired by charities to raise money for their good causes. The fly in the ointment is, of course, that much of what we donate doesn’t go to the cause we support, but into the pockets of these fund-raising companies.

A recent survey conducted by CBC in Canada found that the marketing companies were creaming off 70 to 75 per cent of the money raised through telephone canvassing. Indeed, one charity (helping those suffering from alzheimers) actually made a loss as a result.

Now I don’t know how far these kind of figures are reflected over on this side of the pond. And neither am I suggesting that we shouldn’t donate to causes that desperately need our money. But perhaps some questions should be asked about where our money actually goes.

Zombies against the cuts?

A correspondent recently sent us a short item from Brighton. It seems that organisers of a march and rally against the cuts at the end of October found that their protest was likely to clash with the town’s annual “Zombie parade”.

This little local difficulty was soon resolved by making sure that the two events took place at different times – allowing those Zombies who were against the cuts to go on both! As our correspondent said – “only in Brighton…!”

Quote, unquote…

Under the headline, “A royal wedding – it’s exactly what we need”, a Citizen reporter gushed:

“Royal fever is gripping Gloucestershire with the news Prince William will wed long-term love Kate Middleton.”

“Thoughts of the gloomy economic climate disappeared as spirits across the county soared at the prospect of a royal wedding.”

(page 2 of the Citizen, November 17th).

Gosh! I’m feeling better already!


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