Creative driving force behind Kielder Forest remembered
A visit to Kielder Water & Forest Park by a 41-year-old Londoner over the weekend was more than an escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital – it was a personal pilgrimage.
Michael Lawson-Smith is the great grandson of Lord Robinson – the man who helped paved the way for the establishment of the Forestry Commission in 1919 and whose vision helped create Kielder Forest – England’s largest woodland – in the 1920s.
After researching his famous ancestor, Michael discovered that Lord Robinson’s name is still held in high esteem in Northumberland.
That prompted him to make the long journey north to visit a stone cairn built in the forest as a tribute to his great grandfather, whose ashes are also scattered nearby. He was joined by senior Forestry Commission managers, keen to keep the legacy alive, and by Don Clegg, from Stannersburn, whose memories date back to Kielder’s early days, and fellow villager and forester, Paul Gough.
Michael said: “I’ve been bowled over by the warmness of the welcome and thrilled that I’ve been able to reconnect with a place that meant so much to my great grandfather, who died before I was born. The visit to the cairn was very moving, but in a sense his memorial can be seen all around in the 62,000 hectares of Kielder Water & Forest Park. I think he would be overjoyed at the way the landscape has developed, providing timber and yet also a place for people and wildlife.”
Born in Australia, Lord Robinson became Chairman of the Forestry Commission in 1932, and on being awarded a peerage took the title Lord Robinson of Kielder and Adelaide. The Commission was set up to create a strategic reserve of timber after the bitter experience of the First World War when enemy U Boats threatened to sever supply of vital raw materials. Since then its remit has evolved and now recreation, conservation have joined timber production as key objectives.