A voice of calm and reason………and common-sense….
From the SHEFFIELD TELEGRAPH
CRITICISM FROM THE MASTER OF THE GUILD OF SAINT GEORGE
(Caution against a reckless approach to stewardship of Sheffield’s urban forest)
The following letter was published on page eight of Sheffield Telegraph, on 7th September 2017 (on sale for seven days).
“22 August 2017
Now that the issue of tree-felling in Sheffield has come to the notice of the national news media, I have felt it my duty as Master of the Guild of St George to write to the City Council on behalf of the Companions and friends of the Guild who have communicated their concerns to me. I visit the city rather often and am conscious of a growing anxiety among my acquaintance there.
I think I understand the difficulties the Council must be facing as splendid trees grow old and as those that have matured expansively begin to damage infrastructure and occasion safety concerns. Nevertheless, one of the things that make Sheffield a fertile centre for creativity and humane culture is the sense one always has of living close to the natural world and its processes, something exemplified by the generous spread of trees, young and old, across the city.
This is one of the things celebrated in the work of our founder, John Ruskin. It was his feeling for the grandeur of the Peak District and the need to bring nature into the urban environment that caused him to choose Walkley as the site for his museum, and the same concern informs the modern Guild’s care for its Collection in the Millennium Gallery and its desire to spread the values of that Collection across the city. For the past three years our ‘Ruskin in Sheffield’ project has sought to root those values more deeply in the lives of Sheffield people, and we have been charmed and sometimes amazed by the depth and resonance of their response.
That response must have its origins in the ordinary life of Sheffield – the way nature is woven into the work and culture of the city. As Ruskin would have been very quick to notice, part of that richness has to do with the processes of time. Saplings are very good and necessary and to be welcomed, but there is no substitute for the presence of old and venerable trees that refresh the spirit and contribute to the health of urban life. If trees are dangerous or dying, of course they must be cut down. But there must be no suspicion that the economy and the needs of bureaucracy are being conveniently served by the elimination of healthy trees along with the sick ones.
I have heard that suspicion voiced and I very much hope that there is no justification for it. Of one thing I am certain: if Ruskin were alive today, he would be raising his concerns both in Sheffield and in the country at large, not pointing fingers at those who take responsibility for the city, but wanting to know in what way this mass felling serves the common good. For those looking in from outside, it is hard to believe that it does.
Master of the Guild of St George”
Content From The Sidney Sussex College (University of Cambridge) Website:
Clive Wilmer is one of the English team at Sidney. He teaches the period 1830 to the present day and PRACTICAL CRITICISM. His special interests reside in the areas of Victorian and Modernist poetry, as well as in Victorian aesthetics and SOCIAL CRITICISM.
He is the author of seven books of poetry, the latest of which is his New and Collected Poems (Carcanet Press, 2012). The editor of Penguin selections of John Ruskin and William Morris, he has written and lectured extensively on Ruskin, Morris and Ezra Pound; he is also the current Master of Ruskin’s charity, the Guild of St George. He has published a book of interviews with contemporary poets, Poets Talking (Carcanet, 1994), and Cambridge Observed (Colt Books, 1998), an anthology of writings about Cambridge over the centuries. In 2005 he was awarded the medal Pro Cultura Hungarica by the Hungarian Ministry of Culture in recognition of his many translations of Hungarian poetry. He is currently editing the posthumous Selected Poems of Thom Gunn for Faber and Faber.”
You can learn more about the Guild of St George here: