Royal Forest

On my way to preach at Harrop on Sunday afternoon, I passed through Grindleton into the Forest of Bowland. As one can see in the picture, the ‘forest’ has fewer trees than once it had. Indeed, in England a forest is a special area of land including moor and fields, not just woods. Today, Bowland is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and covers 312 square miles, mostly in Lancashire but some in North Yorkshire. From Pendle Hill it goes right up to Lancaster, covering much of the vista seen from Martin Top’s back windows. 

In English history, forests were special hunting preserves for King or lord, who jealously guarded his rights. Special forest laws applied restricting what ordinary folk could do, enforced by special forest courts. Any with the surname Parker is probably descended from those who kept and enforced those laws. An English peasant had a tough life at the best of times; living in or by a forest only made it harder. The landowner’s rights in his forest were paramount.

We Christ-followers seem few and far between in our nation. Where once was a forest is now a wood; where once a wood, now is a copse; where once a copse, now a lonely tree. Even single trees are felled and decayed, and few shoots and sprouts remain. Still, though the church is small and weak, we still live in the royal forest. Our heavenly lord jealously guards His own and takes not kindly to trespassers and thieves who would deplete the remaining treasure.  

The believer is the man of Psalm 1:


He shall be like a tree

Planted by the rivers of water,

That brings forth its fruit in its season,

Whose leaf also shall not wither;

And whatever he does shall prosper.


Your church may be small, your Christian friends may be few, the branches of your faith may be simple twigs, yet you are still a tree of the royal forest. You are guarded and protected by the Forest Keeper’s special laws and courts, for He jealously protects the trees He plants. Though many approach with axes and saws, His trees survive and prosper.