Fifth Conference – 1947, UK
Twelve years elapsed before the next conference was convened, a long interval caused by the Second World War, in which every Commonwealth country played its part. During the six years from 1939 10 1945 little contact had been possible between forest services. All had been fully engaged on the supply of timber, packaging materials, and paper to the fighting front, with its associated industry. Planting programmes had everywhere been ruthlessly cut down and overfelling had been the order of the day. Reconstruction was an urgent need for every forest and for every forest service.
The conference opened in London on 16th June, and after tours had been made in England and Scotland, closed at Oxford on 19th July. The Presidents were the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Right Honourable Tom Williams, and the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Right Honourable Joseph Westwood, these being the two Ministers responsible for the direction of forest policy within Great Britain. Lord Robinson, who had now become Chairman of the Forestry Commission of Great Britain, took the chair.
Delegates came from ten self-governing Commonwealth lands, including all the larger Dominions, sixteen Crown Colonies, and six Protectorates, making thirty-two countries in all. Guests included an observer from the United States of America, and one from the Forestry and Forest Products Division of the newly formed Food and Agriculture Organisation (F.A.O.) of the United Nations. There were also representatives from three all-Commonwealth bodies, namely this Commonwealth Forestry Association, the Commonwealth Forestry Institute at Oxford, and the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau.
A major topic of discussion was co-operation with F.A.O., which proposed to hold similar conferences on a world-wide basis, open to every member country of the United Nations. It was eventually resolved to continue the Commonwealth conferences, which have the peculiar advantages of working within a common framework of language, tradition, and political connections. Events have shown that this was a sensible decision. Useful though the World Forestry Congresses are, they are beset with serious problems of organisation and communications when they bring together thousands of delegates from over a hundred nations. speaking as many different tongues.
Lord Robinson, who led the field tours, was determined to show the delegates from overseas how much progress his Forestry Commission had made since the first conference away back in 1920. By now it had 600,000 acres of young plantations to its credit, nearly all established on virgin land of little or no agricultural value.
The problems of transporting and housing so large a party during the post-war reconstruction period were overcome by the hiring of a special train, complete with sleeping compartments and a dining saloon. Arrangements were made to station this train in sidings adjacent to the actual forests, so that delegates could step direct from their cabins into the woods.
Three main forest regions were visited. First, Thetford Chase in East Anglia, where 40,000 acres of barren sands or “brecklands” had been afforested with Scots and Corsican pine. Second, Kielder Forest and its neighbours along the borders betwixt Scotland and England, where over 100,000 acres of peaty moorlands, no longer of economic value as sheep grazings, had been ploughed and planted up with Norway and Sitka spruces. Third, the Black Isle of Wester Ross, an exposed peninsula in northern Scotland, where 30,000 acres of “hard heaths” – sterile podsols with compacted layers of surface soils resistant to the movement of air, moisture, and nutrients – had been broken up by giant deep digging ploughs to fit them for afforestation with Scots, Corsican, and lodgepole pines.
Two private properties were visited. At Darnaway Forest in the north of Scotland, owned by the Earl of Moray, the party saw fine stands or the native Scots pine, which had been managed on a working plan for generations, and also a flourishing estate nursery, seed extractory and sawmill. At the Boughton estate in Northamptonshire, owned by the Duke of Buccleuch, visits were paid to plantations of larch, ash, beech and sycamore established on the ” hill-and-dale” land left after the extraction of iron-ore by open-cast surface mining.
Commonwealth Forestry Conferences: 1920 to 1962
The Commonwealth Forestry Review
Vol 46, No 3 (129) (September, 1967), pp 192-200 (10 pages) Published by the Commonwealth Forestry Association