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Stackyard News Dec 05

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Tis the season to be Jolly - But do you know whence came your Holly?

Members of The Country Land & Business Association (CLA) have noticed incidences of theft of holly and mistletoe from their land in the run up to Christmas. In some cases entire bushes have been hacked down, and CLA members believe they are then sold on illegally.


We are not just talking for personal use here said CLA West Midlands Regional Director Frances Beatty “I was having lunch one afternoon when I spied a team of mistletoe choppers in a fairly large open backed lorry cutting down mistletoe in broad day light. Professional rustlers and totally blatant!”

The law of the land when it comes to Christmas foliage is undisputable: Plants e.g. holly, mistletoe and ivy are protected in two distinct ways: Firstly, if they are cultivated on private land, they are capable of being subjected to theft or criminal damage just like any other form of property, and secondly, they are treated as environmental goods deserving of a level of public protection.

If a plant is growing wild it can not be subject to criminal damage so snipping a spring or two is OK, however according to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is an offence to intentionally uproot or destroy any wild plant and sell it on for commercial gain

Even if the land is classed as ‘access land’ it does not entitle a person to damage or remove any part of a plant shrub tree or root. If a member of the public breaches this clause and removes holly, they can be treated as a trespasser and asked to leave for 72hrs!

Two CLA members in Holt, North Norfolk have both suffered at the hands of these rustling gangs, one said. “We used to have a beautiful avenue of holly trees, but year after year people come and hack them down, now most of them have been killed off. Gangs of rustlers pull up with trucks and chainsaws; you can not prove they are selling it, but what else would they be doing with it?”

Another member added “Mistletoe used to grow around these parts but over the years that has all been rustled into near extinction.

The English mistletoe crop is facing a crisis. Mistletoe grows as a parasite on the soft bark of certain trees, mainly apple. As a result of rustling along with the disappearance of apple orchards throughout the country this white berried plant that spreads a little cheer at Christmas is now becoming so rare that an Early Day Motion is being pushed through parliament to create December 1st as National Mistletoe day.

A London stall holder said “Mistletoe is just not available and if you can get it the price is through the roof”

A CLA member in the South East said “Being near the towns and having a net work of foot paths through your farm can cause terrible problems. We have had whole holly bushes dug up by illegal trespassers and we believe they were later sold on. We really don’t mind the odd person snipping a sprig or two for the top of their Christmas pudding but hacking down entire plants and selling on for commercial gain is another thing all together – not only is it illegal but these plants are for every one to enjoy.”

Holly thieves have been a real thorn in the side for CLA President David Fursdon “I had a number of my holly trees hacked down by a small gang most probably to make into wreaths for sale in the local market. Of course we encourage people to use the countryside and support rural businesses at this time of year, but we also encourage them to keep inside the law.”

The message from the CLA this Christmas is clear...

The Holly and the Ivy
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
Please leave these ones alone!!

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