Woodland camp

There is always a gang of children, sometimes junior schoolers, sometimes older, playing somewhere in Village Green woods. The personnel changes as one by one gang members lose interest in sitting round a damp campfire, drinking mix-up or smoking what somebody sold them as top quality weed. But new arrivals come to fill the empty places and the gang continues.

Usually the Village Green gang is quiet and well behaved, and we have to look closely to find any traces of it but the present gang has been a destructive one. There is the usual bivouac and blackened fire pit but this gang has cut down live oak trees for its build and for firewood. Oaks are slowing growing and these, for all their slender trunks, were twenty years old, maybe more, planted back in the 00s when the copse was first established.

Any enterprising child, armed with a phone or a tablet, can find a million videos on YouTube where a young man with a hefty back pack and an axe hikes into some vast empty woodland and cuts down trees to build a shelter and feed a fire. I don’t know what the rules are in those faraway forests, but here in the UK, cutting down trees anywhere without the permission of the the landowner is an offence and everywhere in Britain is owned by somebody. Cutting down trees without permission in a nature reserve, which has Statutory Protection, is an offence apparently punishable by a fine of up to £20,000.

At the end of last summer and into the autumn, a homeless man camped in the Village Green woods, a problem we handed over to Wiltshire Council’s Housing Solutions Service. Although we were worried by his presence and were aware that several people had stopped walking in the area because he was there, he treated the woods with respect. He cut down trees for his fire but only deadwood, ash trees killed by ash-dieback, that had already been marked for felling with a blue dot.

Children played in these woods for years before they were ever part of a nature reserve and we wouldn’t want to prevent that. How would we teach our children to respect and look after our beleaguered countryside if we chase them out of one of the very few publicly accessible green spaces around Trowbridge?

But…if you think that your child or your neighbour’s child might be a member of the longstanding Village Green gang, please make sure that they are not cutting down live oaks or damaging our woodland.

Thank you.

2 thoughts on “Woodland camp

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  1. Is this likely to become more of a problem when the Church Lane development is built and can anything be done to reduce the risk?

    1. The problem is too many people and not enough green space. We need to campaign for publicly accessible places where people can walk their dogs and where children can go to play.

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