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Sir Harry Studholme – If a tree were to fall

Sir Harry Studholme is a woodland owner, Chairman of the Forestry Commission and was Deputy Chairman of the Independent Panel on Forestry in 2012.

Sir Harry StudholmeThere is an old question;

“If a tree were to fall on an island where there were no human beings would there be any sound?” 

The answer may vary on whether you are a physicist or a philosopher but one thing is for sure, the value of our trees and forests come from their relationship to man. This is as true for their economic value as it is for the social and indeed the environmental.

Our relationship to nature is deeply visceral.

This connection with the natural is the basis of what makes using items made with materials like wood so deeply satisfying and resonates with as the pleasure we get from our best landscapes.

In Britain our landscape is nearly as man made as our houses. Working with nature over centuries of occupation it is the choices made by people; farmers, foresters and landowners and governments that have shaped the countryside.

The social value of trees is obvious to all of us.Woods near communities are used and treasured. They provide a backdrop in which people can exercise and enjoy themselves and perhaps reconnect spiritually with the world about us.

Reasonably well understood although perhaps under valued is that woods provide so much habitat with places for birds to nest and roost and for many of our mammals to make their home and find their food. For such a small percentage of our landscape their importance is immense.

Least well appreciated is that woods are a place of work, a part of the economy and a living and sustainable source of a material that is fundamental to all our lives.

It is trees that provide the paper we write on or wrap our presents.

It is trees that provide the wood from which we make our chairs and tables and floors.

It is wood from which we fashion so much of our houses from floors to roof trusses and build our fences and our outhouses.

From the functional to the beautiful but all of which highly valued.

What seems to me strange is the failure of so many of us to understand that this wood or paper comes from our forests. Especially so when it feels to me that there is such magic in this connection and indeed it is the very naturalness of the wood this very connection that at some subliminal level make wood such a wonderful materials.

What Grown in Britain week provides is the opportunity to celebrate this connection.

The week is a chance to take pride in the fact that we can grow the raw material from which we make so much and explore the fact that the sensory pleasure we take from a forest is deeply connected to the tactile pleasures of a cricket bat, a wooden spoon, or a fine piece of furniture.

Perhaps too we can celebrate diversity is our woodland.

That it is not just our ancient oaks that are of value but also our spruce and pine from we build our homes and our kitchens that this chain from tree to the domestic is a chain that provides people with meaningful jobs and that by properly managed the woods the nature in our woods can be enhanced by making use of this constantly renewing resource.

More about Sir Harry Studholme

More about Grown in Britain Week 2014

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