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Sheep, archers and books

1300 AD

wallace_bigThe Scots and English were at war – this was the time of Wallace and Bruce and Edward I (Longshanks). There was very little woodland cover in Britain by now - possibly as low as four or five percent – compared to the possible high of 50 to 60 percent at around 3,000 BC. Most of the land would have been owned by the church or noblemen and hunting forests were common throughout the whole of Britain.

Much of the destruction of woodland would have been caused by conflicting land uses. The sheep was well established and it, along with other grazing animals, would have stopped the woodlands regenerating naturally.

1415 AD

In the war against the French, the yew tree provided the deciding weapon. It was at Agincourt where the Welsh archers using classic English yew longbows were instrumental in the defeat of the French.

1476 AD

This was the year in which William Caxton produced something which we take for granted today – the first British printing press. Caxton actually used wood to make the type blocks (although this made way for lead) and he produced 90 different books.

Today, however, around a quarter of all of Britain’s need for wood can be accounted for by paper production – around 12 million tonnes of wood every year.

caxton_bigEven as far back as the fifteenth century, both the English and Scottish Parliaments realised more trees were needed. In 1457 an Act was passed in England encouraging more planting and in 1483 another Act allowed the enclosure (fencing in) of new woodlands against grazing animals for up to seven years.

In 1503 the Scottish Parliament passed an Act to encourage planting, saying the woods of Scotland were "utterlie destroyit".

Last updated: 21st October 2015