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Nostalgia: Why Thetford Forest was planted

A catterpillar tractor connected to a mechanical scraper makes speedy work of excuvating the site of the reservoir which is to be constructed at Barrow Hill, Thetford - September 1959. Picture: Archant library

A catterpillar tractor connected to a mechanical scraper makes speedy work of excuvating the site of the reservoir which is to be constructed at Barrow Hill, Thetford - September 1959. Picture: Archant library

Archant

Thetford Forest isn’t quite as ancient as you might think. Most of its trees were planted after the First World War, to provide the country with a strategic timber reserve.

Thetford forestry servive, 1953. Picture: Archant library Thetford forestry servive, 1953. Picture: Archant library

Acres and acres of gorse and sandy ridges typical of the Brecks were bought from former farms by the newly-formed Forestry Commission.

Unemployment was high in the area, so there were no shortage of willing hands to help clear the ground and plant.

The forestry commission has its own fire-service. Pictured is the crew of one of the fire tenders getting aboard when the alarm sounded, June 1953. Picture: Archant library The forestry commission has its own fire-service. Pictured is the crew of one of the fire tenders getting aboard when the alarm sounded, June 1953. Picture: Archant library

The job included a tied cottage and an allotment. As the depression of the 1920s deepened many fledgling foresters came from the mining towns of the north.

They planted scots and corsican pines, larch and oak, lime and maple; thinning the trees as they grew before cutting firebreaks through the plantations.

Thetford forestry, 3rd February, 1959. Picture: Archant library Thetford forestry, 3rd February, 1959. Picture: Archant library

By the 1940s, a central processing plant turned out pit props for the collieries.

Chainsaws and post-war mechanisation allowed timber to be felled and processed on an industrial scale, as the country began to rebuild after the ravages of the 1939 - 45 conflict.

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