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by Ken Waugh

The forest was all of a tremble. The summer air was still and without the suspicion of a breeze. Nevertheless the trees were shaking. So much so, that they were prematurely shedding their leaves. From the tallest tree to the smallest bush, it was the same. Even the wild flowers and the grasses that grew at the foot of the majestic trees were shaking with fear. The wildlife which lived in the undergrowth and in their burrows gathered together their families and waited, fearful of what was to come. The insects buzzed louder than ever as if to frighten away any danger that threatened them. Only the bees seemed unperturbed by the oppressive atmosphere which the forest itself had generated.

And what was the cause of so much fear?

It began with what may have been just a rumour. A small holly bush, no higher than four feet tall, stood on the fringe of the forest about twenty feet from it's nearest neighbour. On this particular day in late spring, it was standing there as usual, just minding it's own business. Unexpectedly, two men drove up in a land rover. The holly bush was curious, no vehicle ever came near here. They stopped just yards from the holly bush and unfolded some large papers. One in particular they spread on the bonnet of the vehicle and studied it for some moments without speaking. However they kept looking up at certain parts of the forest as they talked to each other. It was only when they walked nearer to the holly that it was able to hear what was being said. What the holly did hear sent shivers down it's slender trunk.

"Yes," said the short man. "We will have to cut a band eighty feet wide right through the forest, just beginning here. He pointed to the holly bush. "And extending to that oak over there. The road will cut straight through the forest and emerge at the other side about a half mile away."

" Hmm..." murmured the tall man. "It seems such a waste cutting down these fine trees and taking away some of the habitat of our wild creatures, don't you agree?"

"That's progress Jack,'" replied the short man. "That's progress." Of course the holly was unable to hear all of the conversation, but what it did hear was enough to start the forest quivering with rage and dismay. Even those trees which they thought would be safe from the woodcutters were most unhappy at the prospect of having to breathe in car fumes and put up with the noise of lorries rumbling along day and night. Not only that but the whole forest knew that if eighty feet width was needed for the road, then another twenty feet on either side would be cleared. Well that's what the wood pigeons said, and they should know. Several weeks had passed since the visit of the two men and the forest was beginning to get back to normal. but then the men returned and started knocking pegs into the ground. Those trees which hadn't believed what the holly had said (dismissing it as just another rumour) now realised that it was no rumour and began to shake also.

The two men, having completed their task, drove off, leaving the forest in a state of uncertainty and bewilderment. Never had such a catastrophe threatened their existence. For several more weeks after the men had departed, the forest was left alone and gradually recovered it's composure. Life returned to normal once again. All were beginning to believe it was just a nasty nightmare.

Then horrors, the men came back. Again they took out the large piece of paper and spread it out on the bonnet. They looked at it while the forest seemed to hold it's breath. The holly, being the nearest to them, strained all it's ears to hear what they said. But they spoke in such low tones the holly found it very difficult to do so. They were out of earshot some of the time as they went about pulling up the stakes they had put in several weeks earlier. Fortunately the holly had got the gist of their conversation, and was able to relate it after the men had driven off.

The holly found itself the centre of attraction as it Told the forest the fresh news as heard from the two men. It puffed up with importance and it's leaves shone more brightly than ever. "Good news friends," it said. The road will," here, it paused dramatically, as the forest held it's breath. The holly continued, "not be coming through the forest after all. It is to be re-routed half a mile from here."

A gust of wind blew through the forest as the trees, the bushes, and the wildlife heaved a great sigh of relief.

So the road was built half a mile away much to the delight of the forest and everything in it. If sometimes the distant rumble of traffic disturbs the forest, nothing is ever said about it. For now they all know that but for a decision of a government inspector, influenced by a group of environmental protesters, that road would be now cutting the forest in half.

So the whole forest was Spared and continues giving pleasure to all the people in the area who had fought to preserve it.


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