1500 people joined a rally in the heart of the Lake District against Government plans to transfer public forests to the private sector on Sunday 30 January.
The protestors included families, walkers, mountain bikers, horse riders and dog walkers from across Cumbria and even from other parts of the country.
The rally in Grizedale Forest heard speeches from Lord Clark of Windermere, a former Chairman of the Forestry Commission, broadcaster Eric Robson, who is also the Chairman of Cumbria Tourism and Jack Ellerby from Friends of the Lake District.
BBC Radio 2 presenter and keen walker Stuart Maconie was unable to attend the rally because of work commitments but sent a message opposing “this petty, shortsighted and unjust plan.”
Lord Clark told the rally: “I am so pleased that so many of you have taken time out today to come and tell the Government what you think of their proposals to give away and to sell our birthright. The great thing is that this land is ours and we need to keep it as ours.”
Lord Clark, Westmorland and Lonsdale MP, Tim Farron, and Barrow MP John Woodcock, ripped up copies of the Government’s Public Bodies Reform Bill which contains clauses that would allow all Forestry Commission land to be sold off.
Eric Robson said: “The sham is that they are going to have a consultation while at the same time the Government pushes on with two clauses in the Public Bodies Reform Bill which would dramatically change what happens. It’s an absolute disgrace.”
“If we’re going to have any sort of meaningful consultation at all the Government needs to abandon those clauses because otherwise it shows the Government has already made up its mind.”
Lord Clark read the message from Stuart Maconie in which he said: “Some things are worth more than money. You cannot put a price on the joy and the riches that these beautiful, mysterious, verdant, secret, proud and historic places can bring.
“Freedoms hard won should not be relinquished without a fight. If they want that fight, they can have it. As G K Cheterton said: “Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget. That we are the people of England. And we have not spoken yet.”
The Government’s plans to transfer most of our public forests to private sector companies have caused widespread concerns about the threat to access and to the environmental work that is currently carried out by the Forestry Commission.
In the Lake District nearly 40 public forests and woodlands such as Grizedale, Whinlatter and Ennerdale are under threat.