Myc Riggulsford: “Charter of the Forest”

Saturday 11th July 2021, Quince Honey Farm South Molton

The Quince Honey Farm’s new Hexagon building was the ideal location for the talk delivered by Myc Riggulsford, as part of the Arts Destination South Molton’s Deep Roots Festival on Saturday July 10th. After walking through the beautiful gardens, displaying an impressive mixture of wildflowers, it was fascinating to hear how honey played a part in the 13th century Charter of the Forest. Myc’s passion for his subject, “The Charter of the Forest and our lost Common Rights”, came through from the very beginning.

His communication skills honed as a science and environment journalist specialising in climate change, renewable energy, biodiversity, soils, crops, ancient woodland and, most importantly for today’s talk, land rights and loss of our commons, kept the audience transfixed from the start. We had all heard of the Magna Carta, but did we really know the history behind it? Myc took us through the changing powers which took control of Britain during this turbulent time in our history – throwing in a few lessons on the origins of words for good measure!

We learnt that due to the land being used by those in power as hunting grounds, the common folk were refused access: poverty and starvation began to take hold. Yet those poor people didn’t pay any taxes. Something needed to be done about that! Enter the “Charter of the Forest”, introduced in 1217, which returned a range of basic rights to those who they’d been taken from.

It is still in place today for those who reside in our forests, including Exmoor and Dartmoor. But Myc argues that we should all have this right. A good point well made! For myself, after hearing of one of the returned rights, I was ready to take my pigs (if I had any) to munch on acorns in autumn! Contributing in numerous ways to improving people’s daily lives, the foresters were also allowed to harvest health-giving honey, along with many life-enhancing herbs.

Myc’s talk detailed the content of the charter with many an entertaining example as we were introduced to a list of basic rights that gave many access to the things needed to survive. On a serious note, he demonstrated that the right to life’s basics should still be in place today – and that the ancient charter supports this view.

Amazingly the charter also gave women the rights to a third of their husbands’ land’ when widowed, so they didn’t have to remarry. The first time ever women were recognised in law in their own right.

The hour flew by and then Myc’s talk was finished, with a passionate plea to stand up for our rights. He was met with a resounding round of applause.

If you ever get the chance to hear Myc speak on any subject I would highly recommend you jump at the chance: he was entertaining, educational and inspiring. Thank you to Arts Destination South Molton for organising the talk and Quince Honey Farm for hosting, but most of all – thanks to Myc.

Gill Saunders
ADSM Supporter