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Why Britain's woodlands are so precious

Britain's woodlands are more than places of weekend refuge. Jeanette Winterson untangles the enduring appeal of the fores

Source:  Copyright 2011, Guardian
Date:  April 9, 2011
Byline:  Jeanette Winterson
Original URL: Status ONLINE

A woodcutter had three sons. One could chop down an oak tree in a day. One could plank the timber in a week. The third was so small that he just gathered acorns. "And what is the use of that?" demanded his father. "You never know when you might need a forest," said the boy.

It takes an oak tree 40 or 50 years to let fall its first acorns. The acorns fall before the leaves and the later falling leaves protect the germinating acorns through the winter. An oak can live a thousand years or more – there is one in Sherwood Forest said to have hidden Robin Hood. An oak is more than its timber; an oak is time. Our ancient woodlands connect us to the past. They are living history. Sherwood, Wychwood, Epping, Wyre, Whittlewood, the New Forest … The names are as romantic as the shipping forecast.

Rip Van Winkle falling asleep under a tree and waking up a hundred years later is emblematic of how time stretches in the wood. These are places to dream.

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