Community Forests for real
rbomford at gn.apc.org
Sun Nov 9 13:03:52 EST 1997
I'd like to add my own personal story of the Gelli Tree Village. First
a local history lesson!
The people of Crafnant, Trefor and Conway Vally (North Wales , UK)
area were sicjk of the lack of control of the public land around them.
This lack of control being usual since Wales was conolised several
hundread years ago by a regime intent on breaking the local culture
and imposing its own values of personal profit.
The common lands were appropriated by colonial landowners with the
backing of the Engish Crown, the previous residents of the land
eliminated if nessesary. The new order was of pfrofits, profits and
more profit (for the new breed of landowners).
By 1919 the State decided that Britain needed more trees because most
had been cut down, and so it started the Forestry Commission whos
remit was, on behalf of the State, to buy land and plant it with fast
growing conifers primarily to supply (potential) wartime paper pulp
and coal mining industry needs.... ie coal and propaganda.
The felled Oaks of Nant Crafnant were replanted with spuce and pine
In more recent times the public have protested about the lack of
accountability of the Forestry Commision, (FC), the lack of public
access to the forests, and the dense plantations of alien conifers
that are offensive to man and beast.
As a result the FC attemted to make their forests appear more balanced
by planting native broadleafs around the edges etc and improve public
However very few people work the forests, which are not intergrated
into the local economy at all really. The FC's modus operandi is
basically to plant the trees and come back in 40 years and clearfell
with a monster machine. Inbetween times the dark monoculture sits
The people of Crafnant and Trefor (possibly excluding the contractor
with the felling contract) decided that enough was enough. The
residents association sought meetings with the FC management.
Some locals who had gained experience with tree house building during
the anti Manchester airport extension protest built a tree house in
the line of felling.
When I visited Nant Crafnant the local support for the tree dwellers
was tangible. As soon as I alighted from the bus at Trefor I was in
conversation with excited and supportive locals about the Tree
Village. You see the act of doing somthing positive for ourselves
broke the power that has an apathy producing effect in many local
people. Even a relatively small forest of a few hundred acreas can
provide timber for fuel, building, woodturning.... local value being
added locally, tourist cabins, wildlife trails etc etc. Many local
people will be employed sustainable and permanently on land that
currently employs a few every few decades for a few weeks.
The atmosphere at the tree village was very special. Local people
brought food and supplies. Nant Crafnant really is a magical place,
being the resting place of Taliesin, the bard.
The only act which marred the special atmosphere was the resentful
contractor who cut of the bottom several feet of the treehouse abseil
rope which could have been vey dangerous to anyone desending from
The widespread support for the Gelli tree village and the campaign for
a community forest was reflected in the papers, and by David Bellamy,
who was on holiday in Trefor.
There really is a lot a anger locally at the remote and high handed
way our land is managed for the profit of a few. The Tree village has
helped us to see that change is possible, and that the power of
profit, even when combined with centuries of colonial disempowerment,
can be broken.
The FC are open to begin change to local control of the forest and
have agreed to replanting of the forest is tobe of native broadleafs.
It is a real loss, material and spritual that most of the native
forest was cleared. They were a real source of food and shelter.
We are beginning to replant the native forests and rebuild our
I urge all those who still have intact old growth forest as part of
the region that they live in to think what it would be like to live in
a deforrested environment. If you want to see what it looks and feels
like come and visit the Mountains of Wales or the Highlands of
Scotland, both are devasted environments. Empted of people, trees,
wildlife. Again I say we are beginning to repair the damage. It is a
slow, difficult and painful process...Facing up to the reality of the
damage, but it something that we must begin.
Many people would like to see the replanting of native forest in
Snowdonia, the establishment of a forest where people could recharge
thier spirits. Closing off road traffic and air traffic. Reintroducing
wildlife and the people who were cleared off to make way for sheep
ranches. many Permaculture holdings could nestle comfortably in the
valleys. Livlihoods not profits.
Change begins here inside yourself. We can change. and we have to. and
its good, much more deeply satisfying than the superficial deliets of
We're waiting for you. Don't be too long.
Love and respect, Jim.
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