Freeman’s Wood-a romantic name for a soulless concrete future
Today I saw something which ashamed me and filled me with glee. It roused me from torpor and filled me with passion. It made me want to hang garlands of flowers around it, spray-paint bold red Anarchy signs next to it. But of course I did nothing. I was a (very vaguely) respectable looking woman with a baby sleeping in a pram and nowadays I don’t fight the state, I just bitch about it.
But there is something about seeing menacing signs being subverted by the simple means of spray paint that brings out the spring passion in everybody.
Freeman’s Wood does not soar splendidly. You do not gaze at great gnarled oaks here bearing silent stories and majesty. No. In this strip of wildwood betwixt housing estate and derelict mills are spidery old trees, the only trees for miles around but they still whisper and rustle, still change with the season, wild creatures still live their lives amongst them and people, city people, edgeland people, Marsh people walk or cycle past and feel better for just having seen a glimpse of nature.
And now they are fenced off with spiky topped fencing. They are now being felled despite having a Tree Preservation Order being placed upon them.
There used to be a BMX track here amongst the woods, a kids place, made by and for kids. That has been cleared away and fenced off in a place that used to belong to the people. Well, they thought it did. Now Shadow People have claimed it as their own and despite acting illegally by felling the trees are getting away with it. And for more box like housing in areas where people are desperate to sell their own homes.
When Occupy Lancaster occupied the derelict Railton Hotel opposite the train station, a place I have had to apologise and explain about to every non local friend or family member arriving on the train and always ending with ‘but the rest of Lancaster is lovely’, the police arrived at night and in force to the peaceful people trying to make the eyesore habitable (owned by a Shadow Person who apparently live continents away and has not touched the once beautiful building for many years. Although the splendid rose bushes were suddenly sprayed with weed killer one unhappy day)
Many police came, many people were arrested, a knitting vigil was held outside the building and this was felt dangerous and anarchic enough to have a police car watching the knitting at all times.
But now, illegal destruction is going on in the woods and nobody cares. Well nobody in authority. But somebody has spray-painted slogans, one of which, the common land and the goose, has been a slogan of disenchantment and anger about stolen land for centuries.
And it is sad the slogan has had to remain in public use. But in some way wonderful because people still are angry and aware enough to use it. Tradition lingers and centuries old anger against the state still suddenly flings itself against a metallic sign even though we now have mobile phones instead of geese and apathy reigns supreme. But some stranger somewhere with a can of spray paint knows about the history of common land and about how it can so easily be stolen from the common person.
If you reside in Lancaster, write to the council about Freeman’s Woods. Look at the blog and website below to find out more. Get angry. And do something.
If you don’t live in Lancaster, the great land grab is still happening and has happened around you.
And now there is not much land to grab anymore.