Our readers have had their say. 


So here we go again – the 10th Environment Secretary in 13 years, met with the predictable round of groans. The unkind view is that having demolished the health service Sunak wants Barclay to deliver the same fate to DEFRA. However, this appointment should be looked upon as ‘the thinking man’s choice’, not because Steve Barclay has a reputation of being any great thinker, but due to the relationship between the health of the nation and the environment. In this context Barclay’s experience will stand him in good stead for a whole host of reasons.

Forestry Journal: Steve BarclaySteve Barclay

Barclay knows (or should know) about the way trees, woodland and forests benefit human health, both physical and mental. He will also know exactly which pathogenic bacteria and viruses currently pose the greatest threat to human health in general and will therefore be able to cross reference the list with those in the human sewage being dumped daily into our rivers and seas.

Much to the chagrin of conservation organisations, his predecessor (Thérèse Coffey) had already back-tracked on a government promise to release Eurasian beavers into rivers across the country, without any apparent good reason. Barclay can now claim it would be a gross act of animal cruelty to subject these semi-aquatic rodents to such a potent profile of dangerous diseases.

And then, of course, there is the question of what to do about bovine TB in cattle and the alleged role badgers play in disease spread. We can’t expect Barclay to know much about bovine TB because it is rarely transmitted to humans, but he will know plenty about human TB because under his watch as health secretary human TB increased by seven per cent during the first half of 2023 compared with the same period in 2022. Barclay needs to take a good look at the badger cull, which has seen 210,000 badgers killed in England since 2013. This represents a huge proportion of the badger population, not only in the UK but in Europe as a whole, because the UK is home to by far the single largest number of badgers in the whole of Europe.

However, I think we might miss Thérèse Coffey on the agriculture and food front because I doubt whether Barclay knows much about the nutritional value of turnips.
Dr Terry Mabbett


Thank you to John Jackson for taking the time to challenge our stats (‘Letters to the editor’, FJ 350). Sorry we did not reply to you before. We have revisited our calculators and we think our claim about the fire damage at Warren Heath was accurate: greater than 600 tennis courts.

Teachers will remind us it’s always good to show your working out. We used a doubles court as the reference as this is the biggest. According to www.wimbledon.com, the doubles court is “length 23.77m (78’) x width 10.97m (36’)”. That’s 260.75 m² or 2,808 ft².

Sadly, the fire damage was estimated to be 15.78 hectares or 39 acres (157,800 m² or 1,698,840 ft²). That’s some 605 doubles courts either way.

Game, set and match?
Forestry England