No matter how broad-minded we feel we might be as an individual, we all relate to the world around us, including wildlife and woodlands, with our own personal values. We each look at a place and consider what matters to us through our own window. In a charming but rather un-loved orchard in my Parish, I see the last fragments of the orchard landscape which was once widespread in the locality, festooned with fruit and lichen, and keeping the pastoral feel of countryside steadily becoming more sanitised. But somebody else in the Parish sees the old orchard differently: an applicant for paintballing sees a potential for a stag party and team-building events to support paintballing – an activity some people view as risible. An ecological consultancy has supported the applicant, downplaying any concerns about impacts on the area’s bats, owls, lichens and insects.
The paintballing application will be settled not by a process of discussion, but by a set-piece planning decision. But in many other instances, the different needs we have from the landscape, and the different potential we all see from various parts of it, can be negotiated and discussed. Different views through people’s different windows can sometimes conflict or cause tensions, or can allow people to realise a big picture, of different interests coming together for a greater whole.
It is processes like Community Forests, AONBs, landscapes like Neroche, which provide frameworks for collaboration, big picture thinking, and considering how to settle tensions on ‘what matters’. Yes, these processes might sometimes stifle things for those who want to race ahead and act on their own, and for example clear ‘scrub’ that might be other people’s bird habitat or supply of sloes, but maybe it’s mostly good to talk and to haggle. So as we grapple with agendas like wildlife connectivity, and greater community use of woods and forests, the existing and new processes, from Transition Towns (or forests?) to formal and informal partnerships across public private and voluntary bodies will come into focus. We will no doubt give them some thought during parts of the Woodland Edge event.