Forest lovers pledge to keep up campaign

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CAMPAIGNERS from Keep Our Forests Public held a walk at St Leonard’s Forest on the outskirts of Horsham to celebrate a Government U-turn on plans to sell woodland.

The walk, held on Saturday, brought together 35 forest lovers from Horsham, Brighton, Worthing - and even London - in celebration of Government minister Caroline Spelman’s recent climbdown.

The group also pledged to keep up the campaign against future piecemeal privatisation by stealth of public forests.

The Government was forced to back down in February after a public outcry against proposals to raise £250m by selling Forestry Commission woodland.

Campaigner Dave Bangs said: “The Forestry Commission is in the middle of a huge programme of restoration work at St Leonard’s to bring back the heathy rides and the old broad-leaved forest, to make glades and restore worn pathways.

“Their vision is for a multi-functional forest that can cater for wildlife, public recreation, and timber production – and make a contribution to action against climate change.

“We thus celebrated, as well, the reformation that our Forestry Commission has undergone in the past generation – at last allowing it to work truly in the public interest, and not just as a narrow support system for private industry producing wall-to-wall conifers.

“Our six mile walk took us from Roosthole Carpark, out alongside Sheepwash Gill, up past the Lily Beds, round by Highbirch Hill, down along Combe Bottom past the site of the medieval Ranger’s Lodge, up over Mick’s Cross, down through Scragged Oak Wood, and back to the start.

“Our walk took us to some of the special places where relics of the ecosystem of the ancient royal hunting forest survive. The part of the ancient forest that the Forestry Commission owns holds some of those fragments.”

Another rally and walk will begin at Whiteways car park near Amberley and Arundel at noon on Saturday May 14.