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Talking Trees - What are our Woodland Rights?

It's been exactly 800 years since the writing of the 'Charter of the Forest', and now the Woodland Trust has got all sorts of people talking trees.

IF you want to add your story then please contribute something to their website

It's really important to us at The Hillyfield, as in our efforts to restore the ancient woodland here, and get the woods back into active management we have met a lot of resistance. Is it that working woodlands have been forgotten? Has it been so long, and how has Dartmoor - whose name harks back to the great Oaks which once covered these hills - turned her back on the small woodlands which now make up the edges of the moor?

There is a quiet movement underway to get people 'Talking Trees' this year, and South Devon is soon to become centre stage for a legal discussion about the importance of small woodland regeneration at next months Public Inquiry exploring The Hillyfield Appeal on Dartmoor National Park.

1217 - exactly 800 years ago, we are busy writing up the 'Magna Carta'. Arguably (at least from our perspective) the most important document produced being the 'Charter of the Forest'.

At a time when all forests were being taken away from the people and maintained as the exclusive hunting ground for the king and royalty, this Charter was a legal document which protected the age-old rights of the common people. These included 'Pannage' where you can take your pig out to the forest to eat seeds and nuts in mast years, 'Estover' where you could go out and collect firewood at certain times of the year... and helped form the beginnings of environmental protection to stop flora and fauna from being over-hunted or harvested.

Today over 50 organisations from all sectors are taking part to help raise a discussion from the grass roots up to share the vital importance of trees to us today.

Here in Devon, The Hillyfield Woodland Farm on Dartmoor and friends are acting as one of the Champions for the Charter for Trees having set up the 'South Dartmoor Branch'. You can get involved now.

We've shared our story 'Is Dartmoor Still in the Dark Ages'... questioning why Dartmoor National Park Planning Authority have refused us permission for the barns we need to dry our timber and protect our machinery, and then served enforcement notices against all the structures we have in the woods.

The Woodland Trust says, 'Trees, woods and forest livelihoods in the UK are facing more threats today than at any time in history, yet are consistently undervalued and overlooked in decision-making and practice in all areas of society. We risk losing trees from our lives and landscapes if we don't act before it is too late'.

You can take part in one of the Tree Charter discussions and events taking place across Dartmoor and South Devon by joining the facebook group 'South Dartmoor Branch', or stand up with 'The Hillyfield' at their Public Inquiry (10am on March 16th and 17th at Dartmoor National Park HQ in Bovey Tracey) to show support as they argue the need for structures to support their sustainable woodland restoration project on Dartmoor. For more information visit

If you want to see the woods at 'The Hillyfield' there will be plenty of tree-planting opportunities this winter (why not join their volunteer day on the 2nd Saturday of the month), and a public open-day 'Tree Charter' event on the 11th June as part of Open Farm Sunday involving a tour of the woods and a discussion with a handful of woodland folk.

Then on September 9th we will be holding a Tree Charter space at the South Brent Wood Fair in the village hall and around 10am to 5pm.

If you want to share your story of trees, or organise a wood related event then get in touch with the South Dartmoor Branch of the Tree charter direct or go direct to the tree charter website

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