One of our local papers in the New Forest area is the New Milton Advertiser and Lymington Times which has been published weekly without interruption since 1928 and is understood to be the last broadsheet local newspaper in the country.
Within the pages of the 18th November 2016 edition were a couple of articles that caught my attention and in a very local way highlighted the conflict between man and his environment on a very micro scale.
The first one was headlined ‘Wetlands plan sunk after evidence doubt’. For those not living in the immediate New Forest area this article is about how the plans of Natural England and the National Parks Authority to return an area back to its natural wetland state were thwarted, for the time being, by local pressure groups and the local council finally deciding by one vote to refuse planning permission for the project to go ahead.
The area in question is between Hythe and Fritham and concerns the flow of Latchmoor Brook through the valley between these two villages. Currently this area is well drained and is a popular site for walking or just sitting by a quintessentially babbling brook to have a picnic, for children to play safely in the shallow waters and for general enjoyment. The way this area looks today’s the result of, as the local MP stated, many men who years ago ‘with spades straightened some waterways’ to drain what once was natural wetland.
Reasons behind the objections were that any reversion back to its wetland state would involve huge volumes of heavy goods vehicles shipping earth in to raise five miles of river beds and recreate the meanders that fed the original wetlands, a local amenity would be destroyed and made unsafe amongst others.
One of the major problems in the New Forest and throughout most of Britain is the shortage of affordable housing to enable people to climb on to the housing ladder. On the opposite side of the forest there has been a plan submitted to build ninety new and affordable homes on exir=ting green belt land within the New Forest which through the letters page is being objected to.
Now, here is the paradox that this and many areas throughout Britain face. On one side of the paradox is the drive to return the landscape to how nature has created it which is being objected to. On the other side of the paradox is thee drive to prevent that same landscape from being interfered with the demands of man. I am not sure where the middle ground is on these two conflicting principled stands.
On page twenty is a small section for religious reflection. It caught my eye because it’s first sentence started ‘Five hundred years ago sailors feared the horizon’. As we live near the sea I first thought that this was going to be write up of something from the local history archives but alas no, the author worked seamlessly from that opening sentence to God showing the glories of heaven in Revelations 21:1 NKJV. In between the article mentioned that over five hundred years ago the Spaniards erected a plaque at the Straits of Gibraltar with the inscription ‘Ne plus ultra’ (No more beyond). That is what sailors in those days believed, go beyond the horizon and there was nothing. That was until Christopher Columbus went ‘beyond’ and discovered America in 1492.
This is how the people involved in all the decisions affecting our lives as individuals, as a societies and nations should be thinking be they individual voters where individuals are allowed to vote, the elected and the institutions they work through; they should be thinking ‘beyond’. Not for today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year or the next election but further, much further ahead. In fact at least a generation ahead so that whatever legacy the next generation inherit they will not be looking at the results of our decisions and saying ‘What were they thinking of!?’ but instead will be saying ‘That was a good call’ or ‘They were really thinking of us’.