Those dark and magical places
h . ce n he adows on.
. eart easy to get lost. Dusk can suddenly fall and then in the darkness that follows a mass of unseen, scurrying creatures, real and mythical, comes to life.
Perhaps these extreme reactions explain why forests have inspired so many poets, visual artists and musicians. Wordsworth and Coleridge celebrated the woods of the Harz Mountains in Germany; Henry David Thoreau mourned the loss of forest as the cities of America expanded. David Hockney’s Yorkshire paintings make him the latest in a long line of visual artists who have found trees a powerful muse.
In opera, Weber’s Der Freischütz and most of Wagner’s Ring Cycle are set in the forest. Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and Sondheim’s Into the Woods are built on frightening folklore. Many ny a Sch Schubert song features a lo lovelorn hero tending h his broken heart protecte protected by a canopy of trees. Elg Elgar and Vaughan Williams were inspired by the wood woodland of West Sussex and an Surrey respective respectively; Arnold Bax wro wrote three musical ton tone poems with fo forest themes.
Most musicm making today mainly ha happens in towns an and cities; and yet as Rad Radio 3 offers a place to find inspiration and to reflect and take stock, it seems entirely appropriate to take our programmes and our listeners “Into the Forest”. Each day will start with forest sounds and stories, and a playlist of works inspired by woodland at home and abroad, as I broadcast live from a different location each day. Oak from Tollymore Forest was the wood of choice for interior designers working in Belfast on the ships of the White Star Line, including RMS Titanic. Gothic gate arches and follies (including a barn designed to look like a church) reflect the place’s history as the demesne of the Earls of Roden; it became Northern Ireland’s first state forest park in 1955. Salmon and trout spawn in the Shimna river, which flows through the forest, crossed by 16 bridges. Its regular use as filming location for Game of Thrones means Tollymore has now found a whole new audience of forest lovers around the world. century, lumber, coppicing for charcoal and hungry deer meant that the Caledonian forest covered little more than five per cent of the country. Glen Affric, perhaps the most beautiful of all the Scottish glens, includes one of the surviving remnants, with pine, oak and birch trees, sitting alongside breathtaking lochs and mountains. The urgent national need for wood after the First World War prompted a massive replanting programme in Scotland. Today, part of Glen Affric is dedicated to regeneration; the Scottish Government is aiming for 25 per cent forest cover by 2050. Walk through the Gwydyr Forest and you’ll keep coming across old engine houses, slag heaps and reservoirs, a reminder of its industrial heritage. This was a centre for Welsh lead and zinc mining from 1850 to 1919. Today, the disused workings are a perfect breeding ground for rare plants and William the Conqueror proclaimed the New Forest as royal land soon after his arrival. In 1086, the Nova Foresta was the only forest described in detail in the Domesday Book. William destroyed 36 villages while taking the land; furious locals got their revenge – one of his sons was shot by an arrow, a grandson hanged between boughs of the trees. The forest is managed by a Verderers’ Court, its leader appointed by the monarch. Five Agisters supervise a system that allows commoners to graze cattle and ponies. The New Forest has long been a source of timber for the Royal Navy. Ships were built for Nelson’s Trafalgar fleet at Buckler’s Hard.
BBC Radio 3’s Breakfast programme airs weekdays between 6.30am and 9am. The “Into the Forest” season will run for a week from tomorrow; bbc.co.uk/radio3
Glen Affric, left; Sherwood, main; New Forest, below; Petroc Trelawny