The New Midland Forest

The Society's meeting on Thursday 26th April was addressed by Mr Frank Walmsley, Midlands Regional Officer of the Countryside Commission, who had come to talk to us about urban fringe forestry. Apart from an undoubted interest in this subject, members were impressed by the presentation of a mine of information, clearly expressed and supported by a wealth of documented facts and a few slides.

The possible siting of the new National Forest on Lichfield's doorstep was central to our interest. The initial 'kite-flying' of this prospect had been met with considerable enthusiasm and had been followed by a feasibility study in 1988 during which local authorities in the five areas under consideration had been consulted. Which of the five will be selected is to be decided in June, but Mr Walmsley warned that even if selected "the project may never happen". Funding could be a major impediment to implementation. Among the criteria by which selection is likely to be made, Mr Walmsley mentioned that it should be seen as a catalyst to stem economic decline and to provide for the diversification required for vast acreages to be taken out of food production.

Of greater certainty is the creation of the South Staffordshire Community Forest, the first of three Community Forests, which has already been started by the planting of 200 trees at Little Wyrley. Many more will follow: creating nature trails; new jobs in forestry, conservation and leisure; reclaiming derelict land; helping to reduce the effect of global warming and producing timber to the advantage of our national trade deficit.

Although forests cannot be created overnight it is expected that transformation can be brought about in as little as ten years by a tree planting density as low as 30 - 50% cover.

The meeting was concluded with a vigorous question time during which concern was expressed about the type of trees which we hoped to see.

Ivor Mitchell
April 1990