There must have been at least four million acres of woodland in England at the beginning of the sixteenth century, and all hardwoods at that. The forests of Epping and Arden, Sherwood, Dean and Wychwood … were a living reality. Smaller woods abounded all over England. Few boys lived beyond easy walking distance of thick woodland, or of wild and spacious heaths, where they could work off freely the animal energies that in the twentieth century lead too many of them in the foul and joyless towns into the juvenile courts.
There was plenty of scope for poachers of fish, and game, and plenty of fresh air and space for everybody, and silence if they wanted it. No industrial smoke, nothing faster on the roads than a horse, no incessant noises from the sky: only three million people all told, spread thinly about the country. The largest provincial town (Norwich) could be described as ‘either a City in an Orchard, or an Orchard in a City, so equally are Houses and Trees blended in it’.
The Making of the English Landscape
WG Hoskins, 1955