Sherwood Forest – No Sense in Fracking

In a 2012 presentation, Kevin Heatley, a specialist in the restoration of damaged ecosystems, refers to the forests of his home state, Michigan as creating a “sense of place” and being “a place of sense.”

Recent proposals to carry out seismic testing (a precursor in many cases to fracking) in the area of and underneath Sherwood Forest have resulted in quick and fierce opposition. You can read more here  and here .

Sherwood Forest creates sense of place. We are told it is an area that has been wooded since the last ice age, and is a remnant of a much bigger royal hunting forest. This was bordered on one side by the River Erewash (a fabulously Tolkienesque name). A tributary of the Trent, the River Idle, forms in the forest from several minor streams.

At the time of the Domesday Book, Sherwood covered a quarter of Nottinghamshire with woodland and heath.

Forests were mysterious and frightening places prior to the modern era. They sheltered Outsiders of various sorts, both mythical and real, including outlaws. Sherwood is of course famous for being the hiding place of Albion’s folk heroes, Robin Hood and Maid Marion. For Pagans of an animistic bent every living thing in the forest has a consciousness of its own. For many of us Gods and Faeries dwell an and among the trees and streams. This mythology, and Pagan reality, still informs our love of the wooded places.

Sherwood Forest is a place of sense. It has a coherent eco-system, being an important site for many ancient oaks, wood pasture, invertebrates and fungi.

But in the other meaning of sense, that of the mechanisms by which we experience the world, it also provides the thousands of people who visit it each year, with the sensuous enjoyments of light on leaves, wind playing through branches, birdsong, as well as escape from the harsh environments of cities and the tedium of manicured suburbs. Underpinning this is a potent myth of the fight against the wealthy to obtain justice for the poor. For Pagans of an animistic bent every living thing in the forest has a consciousness of its own. For many of us Gods and Faeries dwell an and among the trees and streams.

In the presentation referred to at the beginning of this piece, Heatley mourns the wilderness forests of Michigan which have been extensively trashed by the “dispersed industrialisation” of fracking. He shows with graphic slides how building a fracking pad in a forest, or cutting an access road leads to ecological cascade effects whereby, for example, invasive species can take over from complex and diverse ecosystems, and water run-off patterns can be altered with detrimental effects. (An example of this here would be the role of clearances of forests to create grouse moors and their impact on flooding.)

Primary forest is irreplaceable within lifetimes – and may never be restored. It may for example be replaced by grass, or worse still, low level housing and industrial development. The sense of place is destroyed. Sherwood Forest could become Any Fringe Development, UK.

Forests such as Sherwood should continue to be valued as a sustainable resource. Here is some of what they give us (not costed into any proposals to damage them):

  • Carbon sequestration
  • Air filtration
  • Water purification
  • Groundwater recharge
  • Recreation for the soul and body

They should not be destroyed for the extraction of shale gas which will do nothing to ameliorate climate change, and if it benefits anyone will primarily benefit those who profit from the petro-chemical industry.

Meanwhile, as well as opposing Ineos and their like, we all also need to work towards living simpler, more sustainable lives so that our precious places may endure.

Thanks to Kevin Heatley for his presentation which has informed this piece heavily.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *