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The Solent, a tree, a country park and something special

It is not often you come across something special, but today was that day when walking along the shore at Fort Victoria Country Park I came across David Wallace and his horizontal tree carving.  Horizontal as the sea is ever encroaching on the land and the holm oaks are forever slip sliding into the sea.

David has taken to carving the fallen trees and this one is of the animal life of the Solent, both past and present. David stopped work for a moment and we counted how many species he had done. 24, no it was 25 in all as he had forgotten to count the seal at the base of the tree.

The Solent and the tree

View across the Solent from where David is carving the fallen tree.

I came back later in the day as David had kindly allowed me to take photos of him and his work. Whilst there I watched him engage with passers by enthralled by his work – he really is knowledgeable about the marine environment and people keep asking questions – often he spends more time talking to people than carving – but then it is all voluntary, so there are no targets to keep.

It’s the ‘aquarium’ for the ranger explained David – much easier to illustrate what lives in the sea than from any book or a picture. David has been carving since 8 years old, mostly public works of art with the occasional private commission. The Solent carving has taken two months and he says he will keep going until it is finished or indeed until it gets washed away by the sea.

Tree carving

Admiring the tree carving on the shoreline

A passer-by asked me what my favourite carving was, I immediately said the limpet, but on second thoughts it’s probably the sand slater or maybe even the stingray…

Location: Fort Victoria Country Park, Isle of Wight.

Addendum: This year we celebrate the Countryside Act’s 50th Anniversary.  One of the outcomes of the Act was the creation of Country Parks – and a key component of Country Parks was enjoyment of the countryside and I reckon David Wallace’s work is a fine example of Country Parks in action today.

UPDATE: On the night of October 17th someone came to the Country Park sawed the carving from its trunk and stole the lovely carving and took it away. Now all that remains of David’s work of all Summer long is a tree stump. If you ever get offered or see anything resembling David’s tree carving from the pics above please inform the Police.

The Countryside Act 50th Anniversary

This month see the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Countryside Act.  To celebrate this, an event was held recently by past staff and Board members of the Countryside Commission.  This was an opportunity to reflect on some of the achievements of the Act, many of which are still influencing countryside work today.

The Act was developed against a backdrop of an increasingly urban population, becoming more isolated from the benefits that the natural environment can provide and a recognition that something needed to be done about this. Sounds familiar!

The formal purpose of the act was

…to enlarge the functions of the National Parks Commission (NPC), to confer new powers on local authorities and other bodies for the conservation and enhancement of natural beauty and for the benefit of those resorting to the countryside and … to amend the law about trees and woodlands, footpaths, bridleways, and other public paths.

The Countryside Act bestowed powers to undertake or grant-aid experimental research projects, powers that have now been inherited by Natural England.  From this came hugely significant initiatives that remain with us today. One example is the early thinking and piloting of practical land management that led to Countryside Stewardship including a landscape monitoring initiative that has now been running for 44 years (Another was Country Parks next post)

A second and contrasting example is the support that was given to the National Small Woods Association.  This is described by Ian Baker (current CEO) in his blog, which also provides a further insightful consideration of the 50th anniversary: https://www.facebook.com/smallwoods.org.uk/posts/2191623497518998.  The establishment of the National Forest in the early 1990’s in Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire and the suite of Community Forests which followed elsewhere is yet another example.  These have provided the inspiration for the commitment to create a new Northern Forest in the Defra 25 Year Plan.

Natural England’s drive to create resilient landscapes and seas; to put people at the heart of the environment and to grow natural capital, enshrined in their Conservation 21 Strategy, now carries the mantle in the 21st Century.  In this context, it was great to hear the reflections of those involved in some of the early pioneering work including from Adrian Phillips and Michael Dower, both Director Generals of the Countryside Commission, created by the Act to replace the NPC, as well as those of Marian Spain (Natural England Board member, CEO Plantlife, New Forest Park Authority), who focused on the continuing relevance of the legacy of the Countryside Act today.

Next year the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 will be 70 years old and no doubt itself will be the subject of its own anniversary celebrations.  Michael Gove, Secretary of State (Defra) recently announced a review of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This review, to be led by Julian Glover, will bring us back full circle to ‘look at how these iconic landscapes meet our needs in the 21st century’.  The legacy of the great achievements that stemmed from the Countryside Act 1968 will no doubt be an important backdrop to the Glover Review.

 

With thanks to David Vose, Natural England.