Those of you who have nothing better to do than read my ramblings will know that I am often bemused by the way that some of our visitors conceive this beautiful Forest of ours and how it functions; and I met a man the other day who did nothing to dissuade my conviction that there are certain people, not necessarily visitors, who have, to say the least, an unusual perception of some aspects of Forest life.
The man in question is an old friend and a ‘Forester born and bred’ who lives near Marchwood and who worked, before he took retirement, in Fawley refinery. He told me about a fellow refinery employee who was a self-confessed ‘Townie’ with, nonetheless, a high regard for the Hampshire countryside and a desire to learn as much about it as he could. In consequence of which, he was continually questioning my pal about the various things he observed during his journey, to and from work. One day, at about this time of year, he asked about the vibrant fields of yellow that he had recently observed in fields just north of Romsey and was duly advised that what he had seen were crops of oilseed rape; and that, or so my colleague thought, was that!
Several weeks went by until, on a warm summer day, the ‘Townie’, driving across the Forest, spotted several young Foresters who were industriously employed in pulling the poisonous, yellow ragwort from the roadside verges. On arriving at his place of work he announced that oilseed rape must be very valuable and, when asked why he could possibly have such a thought, he went on to explain that he had seen several people pulling it, bagging it and carting it away by lorry –‘and, if it wasn’t valuable, they wouldn’t be collecting it, would they?’
But it’s not only visitors and ‘Townies’ who can create a howler. My old friend went on to tell me about the signs that suddenly appeared, not so long ago, on the grass verges in the Ipley Cross area of the Forest. He couldn’t remember the exact wording but they read something akin to ‘DO NOT MOW – CONSERVATION AREA’. They were, apparently, purposed-made signs and had, no doubt, been funded from public coffers. I cannot think that this blunder was made by the Forestry Commission and I’ll leave it to your own imaginations to guess who the perpetrators of this signage might have been! But when all is said and done, there is someone out there, in a position of some authority, who perhaps believes, as do many of our visitors, that there is an army of little men who come out in the hours of darkness with strimmers and ride-on mowers to carefully groom the Forests’ verges and lawns. But hold on! Maybe I do this person an injustice. Perhaps he or she is well-aware that the animals are ‘the architects of the Forest’ but is under the misguided opinion that the ponies, cattle and deer can read!!
I have to tell you that having written the foregoing, I was driving back from Crow when my passage was obstructed by a thumping great tractor with an hydraulic arm extended from its near-side; on the end of which, hovering above the already close-cropped verge, was a madly spinning mower! What on earth is going on?
Must go now –before I get mown down too!