Thetford Forest was created artificially to provide a managed resource of wood for the war effort and the future in general. This represents the largest lowland land use change in the British Isles and was undertaken by hundreds of hard working individuals, a lot of the time, by hand. This project aimed to record and archive the first hand experiences and accounts of the ageing foresters who were part of this feat.
Volunteers were trained in oral history recording and archival research/cataloguing by the Norfolk Records Office and staff at Forestry Commission. 15 volunteers were trained in oral history recording, 50% more than had been planned due to interest shown. These people went on to arrange and undertake 27 interviews with retired foresters, wives of foresters, some who grew up in the forest and some who joined later on and spent their entire careers here. Six of the oral history volunteers have stayed on after the project to carry on recording local people’s stories. Eight drop in sessions were held for people to bring in their old photos, all of which were catalogued and scanned to produce a digital archive which is held at Norfolk Records Office. Photos continue to come in after the project and two dedicated volunteers have carried on scanning!
A celebration event at the end of the project was attended by 60 retired foresters and the families and interviewees were presented with a CD of their interview and a copy of an illustrated project report. The report was also sent to over 100 local schools, interest groups, libraries and community centres. All of the interviews have been transcribed and are available online to listen to at: https://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/beeh-9vnemt. A short video summing up the project is also available on the Breaking New Ground YouTube channel. or 0300 067 4551
Jackie Cameron, project volunteer