Rob Simpson and Finn Jackson had a very good meeting yesterday with Karen Guest and David Williamson at Alice Holt Forest.
We talked about how the Forestry Commission somehow manages to combine forestry with wildlife management, amenity spaces, providing movie locations, setting up local businesses, education, cycle, motorcycle, and bridleways, …
You get the idea.
They do lot at Alice Holt (I had not realised how much) and they do it very well.
We also talked about Transition and the fact that Climate Change says we need to reduce our fossil fuel usage and Peak Oil says we will have to.
It turns out that Alice Holt can do many things to address the key priorities that arise, (and in many cases already is taking action!):
Alice Holt could support research into agro-forestry , enabling us to grow more food on the available land. Nuts such as walnut and sweet chestnut can provide as much carbohydrate per hectare as cereal crops — and do not need the land to be ploughed, harrowed and planted each year.
More immediately, Alice Holt can provide meat in the form of venison and rabbit.
Alice Holt is already pioneering the development of hard-surface cycleways from Farnham to Petersfield. They realise that this would be beneficial not only for leisure use but also for commuting.
Combining these with better bus and train links would reduce the carbon impact needed to get to Alice Holt.
Simple innovations like bike racks on the back of buses (which they already have on the Continent) would also improve connections.
It would also create opportunities for businesses to provide (say) bicycles that could be hired at Bentley station and dropped off at Petersfield.
Concrete, bricks, cement, all take vast amounts of energy to make them, as does steel. Energy descent will result in increased demand for wood as a building material. Alice Holt will be ready for this.
(But oak trees take 120 years to mature, so it is not easy to quickly increase capacity… Although the French are apparently already planting walnut trees as a future replacement for tropical hardwoods.)
Alice Holt already provides training courses. These could be expanded.
Emotion / Heart and Soul:
When we find ourselves having to use 5%-10% less energy each year instead of 5%-10% more energy each year a lot of people are going to find the change emotionally difficult. Being in the woods can help with that. Alice Holt already provides GP referrals to help people overcome long term illness of various forms. Research has shown that cancer patients who have access to nature, even if it is only a view of a garden, recover better and faster. Prison inmates who’s cells face inwards onto a courtyard are more violent and disruptive than inmates who’s cells face outwards.
Part of the reason that we are in the situation we are in with climate change and peak oil is because we have lost touch with nature. Again, Alice Holt can help with that, and is already finding ways to do so.
A priority for Transition is to set up new local businesses. Alice Holt has already done this with its cycle hire (which is run by an outside company) and is looking for more ways to expand this.
Alice Holt is already talking to Bird World and Forest Lodge. Together they form the largest visitor ‘attraction’ in the area. Almost 300,000 people visited Alice Holt last year.
By working together, these three organisations realise that they can achieve shared goals and become more resilient.
Both sides agreed the conversation had been very fruitful, and we agreed to stay in touch.
You can download the pdf version of ‘On your doorstep! A statement of direction for Alice Holt Forest’ here: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/eng-aliceholt-statement-of-direction.pdf/$FILE/eng-aliceholt-statement-of-direction.pdf