I wonder what Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and indeed Maid Marion, would say about latest goings on in Sherwood Forest, traditionally famous for ancient trees including the Major Oak, which legend says Robin hood and his men once slept.

However, Sherwood Forest is becoming more notorious for naked torsos rather than naked tree trunks. The sight of naturists strolling through the forest ‘letting it all hang out’ has left regular visitors hot under the collar, according to a report by the BBC.

At the centre of the storm, and perhaps surprisingly, is the RSPB, which runs two connected reserves. These are the popular woodland tourist site, RSPB Sherwood Forest, and the adjoining but much quieter heathland site Budby South Forest. RSPB has tolerated naturism at the Budby South site for a number of years, but problems have arisen after naturists started to use the popular woodland tourist site as well.

A concerned gentleman told the BBC how he blamed the RSPB for encouraging nudists by placing signs around the site saying they are welcome "so long as they wear clothes when leaving and returning to their cars"

A clearly unimpressed lady, who has signed the ongoing petition to operators of the woodland 'to stop promoting nudity', said: "I've walked this area for 18 years. Since June 2020 there is so many naked men walking around, it's intimidating and alarming. When we challenged a guy, not sticking to the rules and not covering himself, he suggested we read the welcome to naturists sign from RSPB, which states 'If we don't want to see naked people, to go elsewhere'."

Headline writers for the national and regional press predictably had a field day with this story. Best and perhaps nearest to the knuckle was the Sunday Times with 'Nudists and their Little Johns ruining Sherwood Forest'.

READ MORE: Tree disease set to scar Cowal landscape

For its part, the RSPB says that since managing the land at Budby and Sherwood they have followed government legislation regarding public order and open access and tolerated naturism in quieter areas. So, perhaps a fitting finale might be it's ‘for the birds’.

This reminds me of a news item I wrote for Forestry Journal some 10 years ago concerning a local authority in Lancashire trying to deter an outbreak of ‘dogging’ in one of its woodlands. The problem was discussed at length during a council meeting but with no agreement as I recall. However, the solution clearly lay with planting thorns such as blackthorn and hawthorn – ‘dog rose deters dogging’. 

Author’s note:

The Major Oak in Sherwood Forest is reckoned to be about 1,000 years old. Robin Hood is thought to have roamed Sherwood Forest during the 12th century so at best the tree would have been a sapling at that time. If he did sleep in an old, hollowed-out oak then that could have grown from an acorn around the time of the Roman Invasion of Britain.

‘For the birds’ is a term which originates from the era of horse-drawn transport and alludes to horse manure onto which birds would swoop to extract seeds.

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