Nostalgia: Why Thetford Forest was planted

A catterpillar tractor connected to a mechanical scraper makes speedy work of excuvating the site of

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 - Credit: 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 - Credit: Archant

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 ge

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 - Credit: Archant

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 - Credit: Archant


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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.

Thetford Forest and forestry. Pictured: Walkie-talkie used for anti-fire excercise. Date: 1953. Pict

Thetford Forest and forestry. Pictured: Walkie-talkie used for anti-fire excercise. Date: 1953. Picture: EDP Library - Credit: Archant

Thetford Forest and forestry. Pictured: Creosote plant, Santon Downham. Date: Apr 1969. Picture: EDP

Thetford Forest and forestry. Pictured: Creosote plant, Santon Downham. Date: Apr 1969. Picture: EDP Library - Credit: Archant

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