Trees and forests have aroused strong feelings in Britain for centuries: their trace is scattered through its literary, political, and economic history. The events of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, for example, turn on Birnam Wood in modern-day Perthshire.
As I did stand my watch upon the hill,Macbeth, Act V Scene V
I look’d toward Birnam, and anon, methought,
The wood began to move.
Wood production and trade played particularly decisive parts in the wars that Britain fought with its European neighbours in the 16th, 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries, and in the invasions and atrocities on which so many European countries built their empires. More prosaically, as we wrote in our piece on forest cover in April, tree-planting is now widely recognised as a very effective tool of climate adaptation, climate mitigation, and street beautification by everyone from the Committee on Climate Change to the Conservative Party.
For all the stories and statistics, though, woods can become distant from everyday life. Micheldever Wood is a mixed broadleaf-conifer woodland in Hampshire that contains many of the signature characteristics of a British forest.
Wind rustles through tall trees; a dog goes panting by; the nearby M3 motorway roars in the background. Apart from the occasional pure-toned high-pitched bird call, all is still.
by Jay Richardson
Monday 8th August 2022