Angela Smith MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, has a number of much cherished Ancient Woods in her constituency, including Smithy Wood, which is sadly under threat from development. She is also Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons and Chair of the Conservation and Wildlife, All-Party Parliamentary Group. Angela is a long-term supporter of the Woodland Trust and passionate about woods and trees. In this special guest blog she explains in her own words why she is supporting our Smithy Wood Campaign and why woods and trees are so precious to her local community.
“It will surprise many people to learn that 44% of Sheffield’s citizens live within five minutes’ walking distance of ancient woodland. No other city in England can match this and it belies the city’s reputation for grim urban landscapes.
Ancient woodland is precious, of course, for many reasons. It is rich in history, not just because of its association with coppicing and other traditional management techniques, but also because of the role it played in our industrial history. Sheffield, for example, is packed with examples of early industrial development, firmly located in our woodlands.
In ecological terms, too, our ancient woodlands are precious and one of the reasons why so many people are passionate about conserving what we have left of this habitat is because of the contribution it makes to maintaining a healthy biodiversity in the UK.
But we cannot take this inheritance for granted. Half of our ancient woodland has disappeared since the second world war and even now what we have left is under threat. We cannot just stand by and watch this destruction continue and we must do all we can to conserve what we have left of precious natural habitats such as this, for the sake of future generations as well as our own. This is why I am very pleased to see the Woodland Trust, along with the local Sheffield Wildlife Trust, joining with local people to fight the proposed building of a motorway service station at J35 on the M1, in my constituency.
This service station would be located in the middle of Smithy Wood, a piece of ancient woodland which has survived the ravages of the centuries and which even now is holding on, stubbornly refusing to give in to the impact of anti-social behaviour and neglect. It is a piece of woodland which despite its abuse by a minority is still dearly loved by the majority of those who live close by, in Chapeltown, in Ecclesfield and in Thorpe Hesley, over the border in Rotherham.
Woodland such as Smithy Wood offers people the opportunity to exercise, unwind and socialise with their friends and families. It offers a tranquil beauty which serves as an important relief from the hard landscapes which so many people experience as the reality of their everyday lives, in towns, in cities, in their places of work. Woodland, in short, is good for the body and the mind.
We destroy these assets at our peril and thankfully the good people of Chapeltown seem determined to fight this latest threat to their heritage. With the help of the Woodland Trust and the Wildlife Trust, I’m confident we can win. “