FROM SCRATCHWOOD TO WYCHWOOD

Old Money

the Wychwood is neither Royal, nor a particularly convincing forest. If you weren't looking for it, you might dismiss it as just another wood, a stand of a few thousand trees like so many others. Indeed, a great chunk of it has been re-planted with non-native, coniferous timber.

Still, once found, the place does have something of an attitude. It's secretive, exclusive. I drove around it several times looking for a pathway in, and there wasn't one. I had to scramble over a wall, and I felt like a vulnerable villein, after my liege-lord's deer, risking an encounter with the reeve's ravenous dogs.

Of course, it could just have been my imagination. Then, a year later, Oxfordshire County Council designated a public path through the Wychwood, under pressure from the Ramblers' Association. The owner, Lord Rotherwick, promptly responded with a demand for compensation, which he valued at 1,568,700.

He had invited the Environment Secretary, Nicholas Ridley for a weekend visit, no doubt hoping that a fellow-Tory and fellow-Cotswolder would see things his way, and would countermand the council's actions. (Ridley lives in the parallel valley of the Windrush, and came under fire when he had an existing path diverted, in order to maintain his privacy.) The old pal's act failed to halt the peasants, so Rotherwick (with the help of Tories on the council) decided to make the blighters pay.

Into the Wychwood Into the Wychwood Wicked Wychwood Wicked Wychwood
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