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Knight Prowler – A Saw Point

Submitted by on February 20, 2017 – 3:38 pmNo Comment

By Robin Braithwaite

“Around the beginning of 2016, a number of chainsaw carvings started to appear in various parts of the Grange Estate (Willington Woods).  At first, it was a couple of toadstools on the Route 51 Sustrans.  Some owls and more toadstools appeared a few weeks later and, then, a chess knight.  More pieces have appeared at irregular intervals – the latest being an owl and a seat (which look unfinished) near to the Danish Camp.  They are one of Willington’s endearing little mysteries. When felling a tree, it is usual practice to trim the stump flush with the ground but, occasionally, a stump is left for removal later.  It is these stumps which have been mysteriously morphing into other things.  I love them: they continue to mark the place where a tree once stood and offer an enduring reminder that, even after a tree has had to be felled, it can still give pleasure. The pieces have proved popular and, having chatted with numerous visitors whilst on my rounds, rather amusingly, it appears that some if the pieces seem to have acquired names: the “Fat Owl” is on the Sustrans and “Marvin, the Depressed Owl” is near Danish Camp.  The “Two Fun Guys”, near the railway platform, were featured on last month’s cover photo and the “Bailey Bridge Knight” is, spookily, a chess knight near the Bailey bridge!  There are others dotted about; some have become reference points for walkers, children search for all of them as part of a treasure trail, and some just make people smile.  Brilliant!

Sadly, it seems that Bailey bridge knight proved irresistible to some feckless night prowler who stole it sometime around or soon after Christmas.  The knight had been carved from a poplar stump, left after the original tree had been felled due to a poplar rust infection (Melampsora).  The knight was never going to last forever but, a year on; it was still looking good – it had even acquired some coloured ribbons.  Since it was originally a tree stump, it was effectively nailed to the ground and a relatively immoveable part of the planet, but it appears that the perpetrator simply lopped it off with a hand-saw!  This must have taken some time and I appeal to anyone who may have any information about the theft, to contact Bedfordshire police by dialling 101. One must always remember that the Grange Estate (Willington Woods) is private land but The Forest of Marston Vale Trust kindly invites anyone and everyone to enjoy the woods as their guest – for free!  However, there is a certain code of conduct which is demanded from all visitors.  Amongst other things, you must leave the woods with everything you brought and take nothing that isn’t yours!  I think J K Rowling summed things up rather nicely with:

“Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed,
For those who take, but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath our floors
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware
Of finding more than treasure there.”

J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosphers Stone

Naturally, certain persons are trained and authorised to use cutting equipment in the woods and they would normally be engaged in either a planned or a reactive task.  We must presume, therefore, that anyone else found roaming the woods with a saw in hand must be up to no good!  According to our local police authority, unauthorised persons caught with cutting equipment, or other tools for the disassembly of fixtures, might be described as “going equipped”, which would require explanation.  We all have mobile phones these days and suspicious activity can generate assistance very quickly!  Just dial 101. It is reasonable for anyone to assume that the chainsaw art appearing in the Grange Estate was being created for the enjoyment of all.  It most certainly wasn’t created for one incredibly selfish individual who, presumably, wished to furnish their garden with their ill gotten gains, or sell it on.  I do wonder if it was the same individual who,in the summer of 2015, spirited away the rough-sawn bench which was placed adjacent to the river viewing platform, barely 100 yards from the Bailey bridge knight.  It might also be the same individual who, just into the New Year, helped themselves (this time with a chainsaw) to a number of pre-prepared poplar lengths waiting for collection near to the Danish Camp.  We don’t expect the knight to be returned but we are expecting the perpetrator(s) to get their comeuppance: it is demonstrable that our saw-wielding visitor(s) cognitively took something which was not theirs to take.  Out of curiosity, various on-line auction sites are being monitored and, should the perpetrator(s) read this article, they might like to know that their Bedfordshire Police Crime Bureau reference number is JH/2062/2017.

Unfortunately, replacing what has been stolen has presented a problem: I’m minded that there’s a distinct reluctance to produce more material that might end up adding to “our friend’s” collection.  That being said, some strategically placed daylight and infrared wildlife cameras (which are occasionally used in the site anyway) are being considered to monitor “locations of interest” rather than wildlife.  It’s a shame that there is a perceived need to do this. It’s a sad fact that a few undesirable people visit our woods.  And nothing is sacred; they will steal anything, even if it’s “nailed” down!  Thankfully, however, it is also true that the vast majority of our visitors are fine and upstanding people who will continue to enjoy the woods. “

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