I SUPPOSE that news takes a little while to filter into this neck of the woods (or should I say forest?), but some fragments do penetrate. And we have been thrown a bit off track by the very sad death of our disabled goose, Hoppi. In two short years he had become the most famous goose in the world, with over 7 million viewings on Facebook. But that’s another story.

After moaning about the lack of a clear presence for forestry in these benighted times in last month’s Diary, I was delighted to hear Sir Harry Studholme’s dulcet tones coming over the car radio on the Today programme on Radio 4. 

“You can’t get any more current than that, can you?” I asked my offspring. They smiled and there was a good deal of eye-rolling – you know the kind of thing – because, apparently, no-one listens to Radio 4. Even Hoppi made it onto Radio 1 and national TV. And what was it about, anyway? Was something stirring down in the forest? Some new policy? A new, simple, easily obtained planting grant to bring about the great leap forward of new planting in England?

No, no, sadly none of these things, which were all hinted at in April by former and current PM contender (and notorious back-stabber) Michael Gove. He’d said we needed to plant up the Pennines and Dartmoor and Exmoor, plus large areas of Lincolnshire around the Wash, cricket bat willows and poplars, to save us from global warming. Presumably, there are those somewhere who believed him. 

But wait. We’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves. These things take time. And we are still shackled to the crazy world of the Common Agricultural Policy, designed not to encourage better farming practices or more production but as a bit of social engineering for peasant farmers in France, Germany and Poland. And don’t get me started on that. As I write, there is no credible end to all that nonsense.

But here was Sir Harry, fresh from the fragrant world of the Chelsea Flower Show, telling John Humphrys that we need an end to yet more nonsense about native species in our woods, because the time and the tide of climate change now makes it imperative that we look for exotic species which will thrive in a climate two degrees warmer than we are now enjoying. That’s official. Forest Research is trialling a variety of possibilities. So, in a couple of decades, we should have the answer.

All this must have stuck in any number of craws. We have been listening to self-styled leaders of the industry flogging the ‘native species horse’ for a very long time, even when the more imaginative majority of us had pronounced it dead. This diary had its moments of weary resignation, as you may remember. 

Yet though I admired Sir Harry’s interview, it failed in that it lacked a sense of urgency. Trees take decades to prove themselves. This is our timescale. But that doesn’t mean that we mere mortals can successfully adopt woody rotations. It only makes it more urgent that we get cracking with new thoughts, new species, new sites for our new forests, and that right soon. 

What we need is a thought-through, all-embracing new forest policy. Take an opening leaf from the experiences of the National Forest. Get local support for changing the landscape, improving by planting our useless upland National Parks where a couple of pairs of raptors decide the fate of thousands of hectares of clapped-out moorland. Get some regional momentum going, locally planned and income-generating, like the famous National Forest Tender Scheme, which got the whole project up and running.

We took the dogs into the forest this morning, and we admired super stands of Tsuga, Norway, Douglas fir and red cedar among oaks and some remarkably fine beech. What confidence did our predecessors demonstrate 80 years ago, to take such chances? 

Do you actually believe that we, this generation of foresters, will be remembered for such courage, such get-up-and-go, the kind of which must have been needed? We live in what I call a ‘Cor mate world’, where there are always a dozen reasons to say: “Cor mate, we can’t do that!”

Well done, Sir Harry. At least you’ve made a start.