Adrian's 2009 Report on Sherwood Forest NNR & SSSi
The Good the Bad and the Ugly.
This is my first annual report for the FoSF, I trust you will find it very informative if not eyebrow raising. I choose the title because it seemed the most appropriate I could possibly think of and I feel certain if Clint Eastwood were sat here he would agree, yes this contains accounts of an Ugly nature. For the newcomers to the FoSF I should perhaps explain a few facts and outline one or two of our policies so we can start head on. First we are an INDEPENDENT support group not only for Sherwood Forest but also the community, if something is wrong we are not afraid to say so, the one thing we are not is a Namby Pamby goody two shoes exercise designed by the Establishment to support the Establishment. Neither are we the Friends of Nottinghamshire County Council, we are not enemies but we were not formed with the sole intention of supporting the Council in their endeavours to manage the Forest, whether it be good or otherwise. Our main objective is to attempt to not only see the Forest preserved for future generations to enjoy but where possible to expand it and see land returned to a forestation. To this end we have made tentative enquiries with regard to purchasing a small section of woodland very close to Sherwood Forest for the benefit of FoSF members.
At this point I should mention that Nottinghamshire County Council do not own Sherwood Forest, it is owned by Thoresby Estates, Nott's C.C. only manage the Forest. The Forest is a National Nature Reserve and also a S.S.S.i. or Site of Special Scientific Interest. In theory to do anything in Sherwood Forest because of it's status you need to apply to Natural England who are the Governing body for that Forest, on satisfactory application they will issue a licence for special events and the such like, however the terms of the licence granted by N.E. must be strictly adhered to. So Nott's C.C. fall under the auspices of Natural England and must adhere to any and all conditions or directives issued by N.E. failure to do so can result in N.E. stepping in in the final outcome and taking over the Forest and purchasing it outright and managing the site themselves, so you would think Nott's C.C. have a heavy burden and a certain responsibility to Thoresby Estates and the Public to see everything is properly administered and in good order, well lets see what this amounts to.
The year has rolled on very quickly, with numerous projects in various states of fruition, a lot are Photography orientated, but with the discovery of Major General Hayman Rookes birthday leading to Major Oak Day celebrations community involvement has extended to Thoresby Brass Band and a special concert being organised for the 20th February i.e. Major Oak Day.
I started the year by taking a walk around Sherwood Forest with BBC Nottingham's John Holmes, at times I was at a loss for answers but in the final outcome the broadcast was voted a success, these things are never easy and they are not rehearsed to start with, but John was an easy person to get on with and very helpful.
Financially we are sound with absolute minimal overheads, I continue to fund the Charity out of my own pocket, income from other sources amounted to one cheque for £5.00 which sadly we could not afford to Bank as the fees incurred in setting an account up would have swallowed that up in the first month. We do need to take a close look at core funding and funding for other projects. It was decided to obtain a new Digital Camera last year but this quickly became a disaster, culminating in a re-think which ended with a high resolution Camera ( DSLR ) being purchased only a week ago, this one passed the Acid test and we can now look at offering Digital Wedding Photography services as an alternative to Film. Plans to hold Photography courses in specialist subjects such as Infrared and Digital sectional imaging are now right on the doorstep. This is the year Ms Diane Wilson joined us as Governor, but we still need further administrators and new members, the same applies to one or two Photography projects, the surprise here was the direct approach resulted in a good show of hands for Photography assistants with Project Genesis.
Not only is the FoSF still in existence but we are thriving, we have now moved onto FACEBOOK as have one or two other organisations, they thought it was a good idea and have decided to follow suit. Facebook affords several advantages apart from being highly interactive, we have Image galleries that can be viewed in Cooliris, get yourself FireFox and install Cooliris ( Both Free ) and see the Forest in the most Magical image gallery imaginable.
My own 2009 Blog has according to the Stats been a resounding success, I renamed it "Coronation Street with Trees". Long may it continue.
2009 was also the year the Farpoint pedestrian crossing was devised, sadly most of this is in the BAD section due mainly to the hostile behaviour of Council managers, this could cost lives, the chance of getting this Design accepted and approved is doubtful to say the least, if the Council did not think of it and did not design it they are not interested. To prove a point even emails on this subject to the Counties Highways department have been ignored.
2009 was also the year our Medical advisor gained her Doctorate, it was also the year she married on Fiji in the South Pacific, having now hauled her new husband up to Scotland. The climate change was dramatic for him, however he has settled in to the harsh winter weather very well and is now picking up the threads in the Diving industry in a similar manner to where he left off as an instructor on Fiji.
This one is difficult to know where to start, there is just so much of it, if I were asked this a year ago I would possibly have been very vague, but sad to report it is now difficult to know where to start. With the commencement of the new year for 2009 came the public viewing of plans for the New Visitor centre, I had concerns before this that all was not well ( You will read that phrase many times ). The New Centre was to be sited across the road from the Forest so it immediately gained our support, as the old centre was to be demolished and returned to forest. The plans depicted a structure spanning the road as the only means of access to the Forest i.e. a bridge with a long ramps either side. In situations like this there must be provision by Law that there be Intermediate stages where Disabled people can stop and rest on the ascent and decent. There was no provision for any intermediate stages on the Council's plan, this was pointed out and I was questioned as to why they should need to provide these Intermediate stages, I quoted the relevant regulations and within a few minutes back came the reply that they might not build the bridge but opt for a pedestrian crossing instead. Well at this stage I had hoped I had made a reasonable impression and that in future they really would take me seriously. Later plans for the new centre were shelved, the reason cited was lack of cash, this decision was taken in contradiction to the Government order that all SSSi sites should be brought up to an acceptable standard by 2010. There has been a lot of confusion over this as it was often stated that the Old Visitor Centre had to be moved by 2010, this is not the case it was a Government Order that all SSSi sites be brought up to spec that forced the demolition, or should have done. Now bear in mind that the Old Visitor centre has only been there for just over thirty years, I would really like to know who was behind the thinking for it, as it had been built right on the top of some precious Veteran Oaks. There was a lot of hot air and Lame Duck excuses at the start of the year that were not necessary, Councillors were making stupid statements and using phrases such as the Old Visitor Centre was " Tired " utter Bull ! All that needed to be cited was the fact that the Government had dictated that all SSSi sites should be brought up to standard and as this Centre was in the Forest it would have to be moved to comply with the Governments directive. The new plans dictating the removal of the Old Centre now reveal that some Veteran Oaks are in serious danger and that removing all of the centres foundations could destabilise the trees and cause them to fall as a consequence. That demonstrates just how little concern the managers have when it comes to Ego trips and personal vanity with regard to planning, build now and consider the cost later.
Just how close can you get. These Veteran Oaks are now in serious trouble due to sheer Council folly. Do we really want to see this sort of thing again?
The Council are planning or were planning to install a Toucan pedestrian Crossing, as far as I could see this was going to invite untold problems, just like the pedestrian footbridge. This was given some serious thought as there has rightly been considerable opposition to Council plans to the Lottery Bid and even to the new proposals for the Visitor Centre, getting large numbers of people across the road safely and still allowing traffic to use the road was not good news. The Emergency services need access on this northerly route as this cuts several minutes off arrival times, that time is vital to any response call. I designed a Pedestrian crossing that would meet all the requirements and in the final outcome was far safer than any ordinary pedestrian crossing, a tall order you might think, but not really, the basic concept took about one or two minutes at the most, the final development of the idea was completed within a couple of weeks. So what is the basic concept, well the crossing operates as would any conventional crossing, nothing new in that, it is the fact that it is better by DESIGN that makes it what it is. One of the main features is the manner in which pedestrians are placed at the furthest possible point from traffic. Hence the name the " Farpoint " crossing, that has nothing to do with the fact that there was a STAR TREK video on my desk at the time I produced the initial concept with an episode named " Return to Farpoint ". The crossing features a mode of operation aptly named AHBL ( All Hell Breaks Loose ) in this mode of emergency service vehicles are allowed to negotiate the crossing virtually unhindered. I must hasten to add that this design works because of the location and movement of traffic both vehicular and pedestrian, it would not work in all situations.
The Bridge I mentioned earlier and the initial disregard the managers had for Disabled Persons access, well it later transpired that Head of Parks Broomhead declared that the original plans were OK ( This was in front of two Police Officers late in 2009 ) and that intermediate stages were not necessary, I hope that Guy ends up in a Wheelchair along with one or two others, that will teach them a lesson they sorely need to learn and very quickly. Fear not, this is only ratepayers money, if they build the bridge and it is found to be non compliant after all this, we will obtain two Court Orders, i.e. one attached to the other, the fist being that the Council be made to demolish the bridge, the second you will need to guess. Part of this lies in the failed Fantasy Project with the lottery bid a few years ago, they still aspire to hang on to that concept, and have even indicated that the New Visitor Centre is only the start as more works are planned for later. Now you would think that for such a grandiose scheme everything would be ship shape and Bristol fashion before huge amounts of money could be poured into any project, well not exactly, when it comes to one or two bits and pieces it gets embarrassing or perhaps laughable. The Bye Laws concerning Sherwood Forest are so antiquated they were written on a typewriter ( NO please don't laugh > THIS IS SERIOUS ) Talk can be heard from time to time about revising these Bye Laws but nothing ever happens > however please do not think that anyone can run riot in Sherwood Forest, Common Law is strong enough to cover even the most trivial offences. Ever heard the phrase " First point of contact " this is the place where interested parties start when looking at a certain venue or place, the Councils website is their first point of contact for the general public looking for information on Sherwood Forest, so perhaps this is a good place for the Managers to start with regard to Public behaviour in the Forest and also to publish any rules and regulations. They have not even seen fit to publish their own Forest Code on this site, perhaps they might like to adopt ours, it's on the Homepage of this website, it's not draconian, it is informative and helpful.
Towards the end of the year approx 14 dog deaths were reported, Natural England was conducting toxicology reports on this matter, since then nothing has been heard.
Enclosed Grazing Project.
A grazing project has been set up in Sherwood Forest with English Longhorn cattle, to all intents and purposes this appears to be a disaster, except for the farmer involved, he gets to graze his rare breed cattle on prime land so he can sell Organic rare breed Beef in the shops at whacking great prices, nice. The cattle tend to herd and use one spot for a toilet, which makes that particularly muddy and unpleasant. On the day of my visit one of the beasts was eating Oak leaves from a sapling, eat too many and you end up with dead beef. They are supposed to break down the bracken but the truth is they can't stand the stuff and leave it alone, they much prefer fresh grass, and will break out of the Grazing area in an attempt to get at better areas of grazing as happened on one of my visits.
A very expensive project that will only satisfy the farmer, providing the cattle stay put, during the summer bracken can reach a height of five feet or more.
I have been prepared to take a higher viewpoint with a lot of issues and rise above any personal feelings I may have one way or another so it came as a shock when offers of assistance I made to Nott's C.C, were rejected completely out of hand without even the slightest of consideration at all, this is the definitive decision making process that is often adhered to regardless. I had my suspicions that there was one rule for the Council and another for others, several offers of assistance had been rejected out of hand by the Head Ranger Izi Banton to the tune of " We are not having that sort of thing round here " This was repeated on a second occasion regarding a different matter word perfect. Well what was so dreadful to deserve a comment of that nature, first subject was the proposal to have a tree to hang remembrance cards or tags from with a service at the end of the nominated two week programme. Well two weeks after that remark by Banton look what appeared in the Visitor centre. On the second occasion I was greeted with the same reply when I asked for Wedding cars to be allowed access to the Major Oak so that newly married couples could have a blessing by an approved Minister at the Oak. Yes exactly the same reply, and they were hoping to hold Wedding Receptions at the new visitor centre, bit of a disgrace if you ask me. Further offers were made with regard to technical assistance with Halloween night, this was dropped like a hot brick after the Robin Hood Festival, and you are about to find out why.
The Robin Hood Festival was very popular to say the least with huge numbers of people attending, that was no real surprise when you consider the coverage they were getting on Radio Nottingham alone. The public had no idea about Health and safety issues and generally most people will tell you that they had enjoyed themselves, Ohh ignorance is bliss if you can pardon the phrase. As stated before I had my suspicions that all was not well and that were substantial violations were taking place, remember this is a very environmentally sensitive area and under strict licence. First visit during the day made the hairs at the back of my neck curl, Tree climbers, large numbers of people in a small area, open fires that looked iffy and the feeling that I was being watched, not to mention the fenced ground around the Major Oak being used as an area for fighting demonstrations, the resulting mess left by this activity was nothing more than typical of the attitude of " Do as we say not as we do" Anyone trying that on themselves would soon receive an ear wigging in double time. I had no idea about the terms of the licence issued for that event but I felt anyone granting permission for this charade must be mad. After my day visit I decided to make a house call late at night, what a shock, 11.30pm and the first pitch I came across belonged to the Sherwood Forest Trust ( SFT ), they had pressure lanterns burning and four members were sat in a open fronted canvas tent with a card school in full swing, they were totally unconcerned at the antics no more than 100 yards away from them. It was obvious from the SFT pitch that all was not well down at the Major Oak. I continued walking down the path to be greeted by the sight of open fires and garden flares burning. There must have been anything up to a dozen of these torches blazing and I suspected that alcohol was being consumed. Open fires in such a sensitive area, it defies belief, I contacted the Council regarding this and the head of the Parks dept Mr Nick Broomhead phoned me back saying he would personally get this matter sorted, sadly Broomhead's efforts were ineffectual, that's being polite. I repeated my late night house call on the following Friday only to be greeted with the same site at the Major Oak with open fires and even more garden torches burning, an absolute disgrace and abuse of privilege by the Council contractors involved, the SFT had probably got wind of what was happening and their pitch was apparently vacant. I stopped just before the Oak for about sixty seconds feeling complete rage and disgust at the management for what I was witnessing, I returned back up the path to my car. I contacted Broomhead and he seemed annoyed with me that I should contact him regarding this again. Natural England were contacted and a copy of the Licence issued for this event was obtained. At least 12 violations were immediately noted and a full report was submitted to N.E. including Images with a view to prosecuting the council. You can no doubt guess the outcome N.E. dismissed as many incidents as they possibly could some were so well founded that there could not in any way shape or form be any possible argument, however as N.E. and Nott's C.C. are cosy bedfellows the decision not to prosecute was taken, however the N.E. officer responsible for issuing permission for this event did say these incidents would not go unnoticed. What did the Fire Service have to say about all this, the Officer I spoke to had no record of any contact regarding the Robin Hood Festival and he asked what it was all about, consider this event has now been held for over 25 years, gob smacked. The Fire service issue a 160 page document covering outdoor events and it is a statutory requirement that any person holding an event of this nature complete a comprehensive risk assessment in conjunction with the Fire Service.
Tree Climbers - Sherwood Forest Robin Hood Festival.
If you wish to attend an event organised at Sherwood forest please remember there are risks involved, in the event of a fire canvass will burn and add considerably to the problem, look for fire extinguishers and ancillary equipment, ask yourself how long would it take you to get out of there and could you run faster than a Forest fire can spread, and would you know in which direction to run. There was a lack of trained staff at the Robin Hood Festival but Banton the organiser decided to press ahead regardless, who would help you out in an emergency. We have refused to assist the Council in finding Volunteers because we could not in all honesty feel confident about the welfare of anyone recruited under such conditions. The Council maintain a stranglehold on Sherwood Forest and will only allow there own Contractors on site, so all events are totally controlled by them, pity some of these Contractors choose to be reckless and irresponsible in such an environmentally sensitive area. We will continue to monitor the situation for future events and look for a considerable improvement in circumstances and behaviour.
After the Robin Hood Fiasco I decided it would be necessary to obtain a sectional image of the area around the Major Oak, I took my equipment down to the Oak but it was busy so I decided to wait until later in the evening, on my return I was lambasted with vile abuse from a Council Contractor that had bee allowed to continue trading after the Festival had finished, little did this stupid individual realise I had his rantings on tape, and we know where he lives despite Broomhead trying to protect him, and last but not least his face is all over the Prosecution documents. Previous to this I had been the subject of hostilities and harassment from Council staff, I did form the impression that at this particular stage of the proceedings they really did not like me, I was even the subject of complaints to the Police citing harassment, however the Police know where the real trouble lies, as a Professional Photographer I know what I can and cannot do, and I never step over the mark. Interfering with a person collecting evidence is a Criminal Offence, I have however prosecuted in the Magistrates Court and I have also held Council for the Prosecution in Crown Court so I am reasonably well versed in legal matters. Had the Council been prosecuted in the Magistrates Court over the Robin Hood Festival they could had been fined up to £250.000 however the Magistrates would have moved to Indict the case to the Crown Court > fines for any single offence here are not capped and considering the deplorable nature of the offences fines totalling something over £1 million would not have been out of order. This is something for the management to give due consideration to but had someone been killed at one of these events then the managers of the event i.e. Banton and Broomhead could possibly find themselves being arrested and charged with Corporate manslaughter, a rather sobering thought. All the facts surrounding this matter will lie on file unless matters dictate otherwise.
On the matter of Security I am often on my own in the Forest and as a consequence vulnerable, this has been discussed with Police Officers and certain measures have been agreed as to procedure and further measures of my own have been implemented to ensure my personal safety while out and about. Council staff have been warned by Broomhead to give me a wide berth, should I experience any further incidents of Harassment or whatever those incidents will not go unnoticed, rest assured of that, I will always press for prosecution in any event. The fact is Council Managers cannot stand to hear of any of their failings.
The Second of the two ugly incidents I was subjected to involved being on the receiving end of death threats from a 4 x 4 driver one evening, whether by coincidence or not but this was on the night when another Bash was being held in Sherwood Forest, it is not clear if the individual responsible for this was connected to the Council's organised event or not, it did seem suspicious as did the response from the local Police. I trust the idiot who perpetrated this crime is aware that issuing death threats is one of the more serious offences in the U.K. and regarded in legal terms as equal to Murder itself.
This is the first time in the History of Sherwood Forest that the lid has been taken off and the whole world can actually get to know and see what is happening.
This report is by no means comprehensive, provision has been made for members to discuss matters mentioned above and ask any questions concerning this report on FACEBOOK - Thank you.
I hope and trust I never have to write a report of this nature ever again, > if I'm honest I do not think this is the first or the last.
FoSF Founder and Governor.