Sun04Sep - Wychwood forest fair revived by TLIO in 1997

Tony Gosling tony at
Sat Aug 20 20:28:42 BST 2011

As some Oxford hey-day TLIOers may remember
On 20th/21st September TLIO staged a mass 
trespass and overnight camp on Oxfordshire 
landowner Lord Rotherwick's estate, to highlight 
the inadequacies of the proposed "Right to Roam" 
legislation. The right to roam in woodland is 
especially important as many areas previously 
owned by the Forestry Commission, who allowed 
public access, have been sold to private 
landlords who rapidly (and legally) erect "Private - Keep Out" signs.
Wychwood Forest at 1400 acres is the largest of 
only two ancient woodlands in Oxfordshire. It was 
open to the public up until 1853 when it was 
enclosed. It is currently intensively managed for 
grouse shooting and deer stalking for wealthy 
businessmen. There is no public access save for a 
footpath which was created by the county council 
in 1989 as part of the Oxfordshire Circular 
Footpath. Lord Rotherwick is still pursuing a 
compensation claim of £1.6 million for this 
footpath against the people of Oxfordshire.
A marquee was set up on Newhill Plain in the 
heart of the forest, where an annual fair was 
once held. Over the weekend 100 people came to 
the camp. TLIO held guided walks round some of 
the exceptional wildlife and the many 
well-preserved ancient monuments. A game of 
cricket was enjoyed by the activists, and as a 
bonus it was discovered that a corporate 
hospitality day in the forest had to be cancelled.
On Sunday a group went to Cornbury House, Lord 
Rotherwick's ancestral home. Unfortunately he was 
not in. His `agent' refused to comment and called 
the police. Two policemen turned up. They asked 
if we were going; "yes" we said, "we've proved 
our point", to which they replied, "It needed to 
be said". TLIO have since been sent a stiff 
letter from Nabarro Nathanson, solicitors for 
Lord Rotherwick, accusing us of criminal assault 
and threatening injunction proceedings on future actions...

Well it seems we rekindled an interest in the 
Wychwood tradition as ever since 2000 the 
localers have been continuing the forest fair 
tradition - see history section below

Wychwood Forest Fair
Reintroduced in 2000 Wychwood Forest Fair is Wychwood’s green country show.

This year's Wychwood Forest Fair will be held on 
Sunday 4th September at the same location as last 
year - Southdown Farm, Witney.  To view a map of 
the fair location please click here.

Due to recent ‘phone problems beyond our control 
previously advertised numbers are not 
working.  If you have a query about attending or 
volunteering at the Forest Fair please use this 
alternative number 01993 817358 or email 
wychwood at until further notice.
WYCHWOOD FOREST FAIR 2010 - Southdown Farm, Witney

View a film of the 2010 fair here.
Our site for 2010 was on the edge of Witney, on 
land recently acquired by the Friends of Wychwood 
to plant a Community Wood, and we launched our 
Public Appeal for funds to achieve this.
The Wychwood Forest Fair, of which this was the 
eleventh, has become a popular annual event 
celebrating the diversity and richness of both 
the natural world and the working and leisure 
activities of local people living within the 
bounds of the old Royal Hunting Forest of Wychwood.
This year’s event  included the promotion of the 
usual stalls for: Local Foods; Rural Crafts; 
Community Initiative Groups; Conservation Groups; 
the Wychwood Project; Friends of Wychwood; 
Tourism; Recycling; Competitions for Children and 
Adults;  Fun Fair; Educational Organisations; 
Arts and Crafts;  Story Tellers; Second-hand Book 
Stall; Morris Dancers:
For more information about the Wychwood Project 
call 01865 815423, or   visit
Photogallery of Forest Fair 2010
Local food, farm produce and arts

Typical activities at the Fair each year include 
displays by the Wychwood Project, the local 
Wildlife Trust, the Wychwood Pond group, and many 
other local conservation and community groups. A 
wide range of rural crafts, some of which  allow 
you to ‘have a go’, are on display. As well as an 
arts and crafts tent, there is a children’s Fun 
Fair, a Green Man children’s story teller, and 
several local Morris dancing sides. There are 
plenty of local food suppliers and farm produce, 
lots of refreshments, locally produced ice cream 
and - last but not least - a beer tent selling 
beer from the local Wychwood Brewery, based in Witney.

18th Century beginnings
Somewhat surprisingly the Fair originally began 
as a non-conformist enterprise in the late 18th 
century, aiming to replace the drunken disorder 
of local events such as St. Giles’ Fair in Oxford 
and nearby Witney Feast. This increasingly 
successful Forest Fair was held at Newhill Plain, 
a large clearing in the Forest about a mile south west of Cornbury Park.
In the first half of the 19th century, Lord 
Churchill, the then Forest Ranger, was often in 
attendance, sometimes accompanied by the Duke of 
Marlborough. The stalls were laid out to create 
broad regular streets, along which the 
aristocracy processed in their coaches at the 
commencement of the Fair. The local yeomanry band 
played and special constables kept order. Perhaps 
the police were not too successful, because the 
event was often cancelled in the early 1830s, 
during years of considerable political unrest.
50,000 visitors
At its height the fair continued for two days. 
Every nook and cranny of nearby Charlbury was 
filled with visitors. As well as stalls selling 
practical items such as textiles and provisions, 
there were sometimes travelling theatres, 
menageries, boxing booths, dancing salons and fireworks in the evening.
The Fair reached its zenith in 1853, when the 
nearby Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and 
Wolverhampton Railway - now the Cotswold Line - 
was opened. Reports say that up to 50,000 
visitors attended the Fair that year. But also at 
this time an Act of Parliament was passed to 
disafforest Wychwood. The original Forest Fair 
finally ceased in 1856, when Lord Churchill 
closed it down to curb drunkenness and 
debauchery. Rather like a modern landlord dealing 
with travellers, trenches were dug across the 
site of the Fair to keep out any would-be 
stallholders. Possibly the alleged drunkenness 
was a pretext, because a long-standing dispute 
between the Crown and Lord Churchill was settled 
by the clearance in the late 1850s of half the 
woodland remnant near Leafield for agriculture, 
where seven new Crown farms were created, with 
the other half passing indisputably to Lord Churchill.

The first modern Fair, organised by the Wychwood 
Project and the Friends of Wychwood, was held at 
Combe on a modest scale in 2000 to celebrate the 
creation of the Wychwood Way, a 37 mile circular 
trail around Wychwood. Subsequent Fairs have been 
held annually at different locations around the 
Wychwood area - including Cogges Farm Museum near 
Witney, Lower Farm Ramsden, Charlbury and Capps 
Lodge - to demonstrate the extent of the former 
Forest and to involve more people in the activities of the Wychwood Project.
Rural skills

Each year the modern Fair, which tries to avoid 
much of the commercialisation of so many modern 
country shows, has emphasised a different theme, 
such as local environmental activities, revived 
rural skills and locally produced food.

+44 (0)7786 952037
"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic 
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
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