IN THE FOREST’S HEARTWOOD Aly Stoneman

Now, Robin Hood can’t scarper
over castle walls – and away –
into the greenwood,
which only persists today
in Nottingham’s place names
– Forest Fields, Forest Rec –
and the city’s football team.

Twenty miles north
in Sherwood Forest’s heart,
a thousand ancient English Oaks
make homes for hairstreak butterflies,
nuthatches, beetles, bees,
jackdaws, jays.

And when sunlight splashes,
counterchanging
dark on light on dark,
we may imagine
an outlaw stepping, soft-footed,
through leaf litter, arrow nocked –

or imitating birdsong
from a perch inside the Major Oak,
the whistling of a merry tune,
minder of the people of the forest,
wood and heathland,
hares and fallow deer

but wolf, boar and bear
are all long gone
with thousands of trees used
for timber and ships
(five thousand oaks to build the Victory)
or cleared for farming and industry
(for ‘field’ read ‘felled’).

Leaf through our poems, our tales
and find the forest there, from Robin Hood
to narratives budding right now.
Speak of how to meet the world
in this well-known, well-loved wood.
Voice how, underground,
bacteria, fungi, roots
all interconnect and share:
a wood wide web.

We’re talking too, communicating
our concerns through networks,
pushing sapling-ideas up through tarmac:
how Nottingham will be re-joined
to Sherwood Forest, oak by oak –
our story worth telling.

 

With special thanks to Becky Cullen, Matt Turpin, Andrew West, Luna, Samantha Bird, Tim Hannigan and the staff and volunteers at Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre for your time, help and encouragement!

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