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Photo-a-day 253: Hamsterley Forest

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Hold up! Before you read on, please read this...

This post was published more than 5 years ago

I keep old posts on the site because I often enjoy reading old content on other people's sites. Not everything that is old is bad. It can be interesting to see how views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured.

But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views might very well have changed in the 5 years since I wrote this post. I have written some very silly things over the years, many of which I find pretty embarrassing today.
  • This post might use language in ways which I would now consider highly inappropriate or offensive.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken; embedded material might not appear properly.

Okay. Consider yourself duly warned. Read on...

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This is a bit of Hamsterley Forest, County Durham’s largest forest.

It was planted in the 1930s, and housed one of Britain’s work camps – formally an “Instructional Centre” – where unemployed men were forced to do heavy manual labour. At the time, unemployed men were seen as “soft and demoralised”, and were forced to attend these camps to be “hardened and reconditioned” for twelve weeks under threat of their dole payments being stopped. Conditions were grim: the men were unpaid, lived in wooden huts, and did heavy manual labour for twelve hours a day. They were subject to military-style discipline under the guidance of retired police officers and sargeants major. The camps were so reviled that some newspapers of the day called them concentration camps.

In all, 200,000 men were sent to these camps – only 10% secured employment afterwards. It is, perhaps, surprising from our point of view that these camps were introduced by Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour Government.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, some of the camps – including Hamsterley Forest – became prisoner of war camps.

Perhaps surprisingly, part of the Hamsterley Camp still exists – though these days, it’s been converted into a Visitors’ Centre for the forest. The forest offers a range of activities for visitors these days, including mountain biking, the RAC rally, and fell running. I wonder, though, how many visitors are aware of the forest’s dark past?

This 1,803rd post was filed under: Photo-a-day 2012, , .

More posts worth reading

What I’ve been reading this month (published 3rd May 2018)

What I’ve been reading this month (published 1st April 2018)

World TB Day (published 24th March 2018)

An interview with Iain Banks (published 5th April 2013)

Problems with the site (published 5th February 2007)

Photo-a-day 93: Flower (published 2nd April 2012)

The ‘rip-off’ craze (published 20th July 2005)


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