Fracking warning at Sherwood Forest celebration

Anti-fracking campaigners on the march at the Charter of the Forest anniversary celebration.
Anti-fracking campaigners on the march at the Charter of the Forest anniversary celebration.

The perils of fracking were underlined at a celebration in Sherwood Forest to mark the 800th anniversary of a hugely important charter.

The Charter of the Forest was established in 1217 to give everyone rights of access to woodland, heathland, grassland and wetlands across the country, rather than restrict them to use by the royal family and aristocracy.

More than 100 people gathered around the Major Oak at Sherwood Forest to acknowledge the anniversary, and one of the event’s guest speakers warned that fracking was now a modern-day threat to the ancient freedoms.

American historian Peter Linebaugh said damage had been inflicted on the countryside in his home country, and many other countries, by oil and gas exploration. And he reminded the gathering how the charter should continue to play an important part in the management and freedom of access to land that had, over the years, been worn away.

The celebration was also attended by members of the Frack Free Sherwood Forest and Edwinstowe group, who fear fracking proposals could be given the go-ahead in the area.

Several other speakers, including well-known campaigner Joe Boyd, provided evidence of the threats posed by fracking, which is a technique used by the oil and gas industries to extract natural gas in rock thousands of feet underground and can involve the pumping of millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the earth.

The speakers encouraged people to join the opposition to the risks to our forests, waters and open spaces, while Guy Standing, a well-known author and British professor of development studies at London University, called for a need to refine the charter in the House Of Commons.

The anniversary celebration also featured the singing of old rhymes with the performers, Three Acres And a Cow, and lunch was enjoyed at the South Forest Conference Centre in Edwinstowe, where the speeches were delivered.

The original charter was sealed by King Henry III, in response to rights that had been eroded by William The Conqueror and his heirs. It enabled ordinary people to forage for food and graze their animals on forest land.