“They’ve changed our local palais into a bowling alley, and fings ain’t wot they used to be.” A musical from the 1960s. Remember that? If you do, get in line for a COVID-19 jab, you’re an endangered species!

Having said that, judging from some recent, very sober telly programmes, we are all an endangered species. The question now is not whether we, through human activity, are responsible for climate change, but what are we going to do about it? Well, we know our bit off by heart. Plant more trees. But we can take that self-satisfied smile off our faces. There’s a lot more to it than that.

First, filling our uplands with Sitka, as we did back in the 1960s, is not really an option, is it? We will need to be a lot more sensitive to the needs of others, and these needs are varied and often conflicting. We have to face up to the reality that the public, who ultimately will decide, still think the bare hills of our uplands are as nature intended. You could plant it all with native species, remove grazing pressure, let natural succession take its path (which is, no doubt, the best way for biodiversity), but for us experts, such a wide-scale policy would surely be an opportunity lost. Replace Molinia with environmentally sound rubbish? Or can we concentrate on quality? Create some new woods we can be proud of, change not the topography of the hills, which is immutable, but replace the clapped-out vegetation, a product of centuries of exploitation by sheep, with new vistas, new landscapes and new commercial and social opportunities. That, I think, is what forestry is all about.

It’s interesting to see and hear how successful the farming lobby is at presenting farmers as saints, isn’t it? A recent radio interview with a beleaguered hill farmer contemplating the effects of a no-deal Brexit on his enterprise was typical. This appeared to be a one-man operation, dependent, we were told, on sheepmeat exports to France. Oh, I almost forgot. He trundled his old dad out to help with the clipping. Border collies everywhere. Whistling. Sad to see a whole way of life passing before our eyes. All will depend on the supermarkets being good guys after all, and paying a viable price, so we won’t need the French. And, don’t forget, no-one wants wool any more, so we can expect our trips to the Lake District to feature, once again, tatty looking Herdwicks with the remains of last year’s coat hanging off them. Too expensive to tidy them up, as it was in the 1960s. Throughout all this, no mention of the dreaded word ‘subsidy’.

READ MORE: Call of the wild

For an all-too-brief spell, ideas on the future of farming post Brexit seemed to be going in the right direction. We really would get a land use policy that presumed in favour of trees. Farmers would be incentivised to replace stock farming with plantations, on a scale not seen since those far-off 1960s. This can already work, as we see in Scotland, but in England and Wales, things are far less clear. One of the more obvious problems is the effect planting will have on land values anywhere but in the hills (whoops! I almost said in the ‘National Parks’!).

Supposing you are a farmer running a beef calf enterprise on 400 acres of grassland. Take 50 acres away and plant them with native hardwoods. Whoops! Here we go again. Away goes the guaranteed income that the CAP provided. £10,000 an acre for grade 3 arable, no CAP safety net? And in comes the costs of maintaining the plantation, so that it will be nice, one day, for the squirrels. But it will lock up carbon, won’t it, so that’s all right.

Another factor which needs a rethink is water. We have had a nudge in the ribs by the unusual pattern of drought and rainfall we have experienced here in temperate Britain in the last few years. It seems futile to try to stem the floods with little concrete walls and physical barriers against rising tides and sea levels. It just ain’t going to work. Better to accept change and allow the benighted Somerset levels to revert to wetland. We can, though, manage our catchments better. Forested catchments will, eventually, help moderate run-off and stop flash flooding if done properly.

We used to know how, back in the 1960s. And we learned how to protect our growing crops against fires. It won’t help mitigate climate change if young plantations in the hills go up in smoke. Fire control needs planning, too. Fings ain’t wot they used to be 60 years ago in the South Wales valleys.

Let’s hope that all that experience, all that skill and knowledge, can be given a proper outlet in the next few decades.

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