Is INEOS planning to drill for shale gas in Sherwood Forest?


Sherwood Forest. Photo: Nilfanion (Wikimedia UK) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons]

Friends of the Earth released a document today which it says contains evidence that the chemical company, INEOS, is planning to drill for shale gas in Sherwood Forest, in Nottinghamshire.

INEOS, which has previously said it has no intention of shale gas exploration in the forest, described Friends of the Earth’s claim as “entirely false”. It accused the organisation of “increasingly erratic pronouncements” and “an attempt to create fake news”. Friends of the Earth said it had thoroughly investigated the facts.

So who is right? The answer seems to lie in your definition of Sherwood Forest – and Friends of the Earth and INEOS have different definitions.

Here’s what is undisputed:

  • INEOS Shale holds the exploration licence PEDL307
  • PEDL307 includes parts of the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve and Sherwood Forest Country Park.
  • In an email from 22 November 2017, INEOS’s land agent referred to a site at The Lings for a potential shale gas well in PEDL307

PEDL307 (marked in yellow). Map: UK Onshore Geophysical Library

“No fracking in the forest”

In January 2017, INEOS Shale told the energy news website Rigzone:

“INEOS Shale is not fracking in Sherwood Forest.”

In a recent two-page advert in local papers, the company said:

“Despite what people may have read or heard, we have no intention of placing drilling rigs for shale wells inside the forest now or in the future”.

But Friends of the Earth said email correspondence between the land agent, FGP, and the Forestry Commission confirmed that INEOS was considering land on the western edge of Sherwood Forest.


Two potential INEOS well sites, marked by red blocks. Source: INEOS Shale

The email, released in response to a Freedom of Information request, included the map above marking two rectangular sites at The Lings, near Clipstone, between Edwinstowe and Market Warsop. Link to email


The email says:

“If you have time, please have a look at the attached before tomorrow.

“I could not email this to you before now as I needed to meet with [REDACTED] and his agent first for them to approve sending this to you”.


“The world’s most famous forest”

Friends of the Earth campaigner, Guy Shrubsole, said:

“We already knew INEOS wanted to explore for shale gas in Sherwood Forest by carrying out seismic surveys – now, despite their assurances, we see they want to drill there, too.

“INEOS appear to have no qualms about drilling in what they call ‘arguably the most famous forest in the world’, and they are prepared to mislead communities about their intentions to get what they want.”

Local resident and a member of Frack Free Sherwood, Deb Hodson, said:

“Our concerns around fracking in this area have been confirmed by INEOS themselves.

“My hope is that now the general public can see the constant discrepancies that are being put forward by INEOS, they will research for themselves how this will affect our community.”

“Misrepresented location”

INEOS told DrillOrDrop that Friends of the Earth had “completely misrepresented the location of two potential well sites”.

A spokesperson said:

“As INEOS has previously made clear, there are no plans to drill in Sherwood Forest and nothing in the documents released today contradicts that.”

“Today’s contributions from FOE can only be described as an attempt to create fake news.”

Is The Lings in Sherwood Forest?

INEOS is correct to say that the potential sites at the Lings are not in the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve nor Sherwood Forest Country Park.


Source: Google Maps

But the sites are, as Friends of the Earth says, within the boundary of the proposed Sherwood Forest Regional Park and an area identified as “The Heart of the Forest” or “Heart of Sherwood”.


Map: Nottinghamshire County Council


Map: Sherwood Forest Visitor

Friends of the Earth is also correct to say that the sites are within the historic extent of Sherwood Forest. 800 years ago, according to the Sherwood Forest Trust, the woods and heathlands covered 46,900 hectares, stretching from Worksop to the city of Nottingham.


Map: Sherwood Forest Trust

The organisation said current OS maps indicate that The Lings is in an area named as Sherwood Forest.

But INEOS rejected Friends of the Earth’s argument. In response to a question from DrillOrDrop, the company said:

“The proposed Sherwood Forest Regional Park has a very broad catchment area including agricultural and industrial areas and even cities. The “Heart of the Forest” also appears to be a wide circle drawn around a mixed landscape area both within and outside the confines of Sherwood Forest.

“Although the potential well site you asked about does sit within those two named areas I don’t believe Friends of the Earth are making a relevant or credible point by referencing them. Areas with environmental designations are identified and excluded as part of our site screening process.”

Guy Shrubsole, of Friends of the Earth, responded:

“Damned by their own documents, INEOS have resorted to alleging ‘fake news’. What we’ve uncovered is the very opposite: the result of thoroughly investigating the facts. It is actually just called news, however unwelcome for INEOS.

“Their response does however confirm their ongoing intention to drill for shale gas at The Lings – an area that a council-commissioned report states lies within ‘the Heart of Sherwood Forest’.”

INEOS would not comment on the status of the discussions about the potential sites “for reasons of commercial confidentiality”.

But a spokesperson said:

“INEOS Shale is currently at the beginning of the process of consulting with local people on drilling locations in England. This involves hearing a multitude of different viewpoints from all sections of society including FOE. As part of this we have offered to meet with Friends of the Earth on numerous occasions to discuss the facts around our operations. This would also give us the opportunity to ask them the question, since they have endorsed the use of natural gas as a bridging fuel towards a renewable energy future, where this gas will come from?”

DrillOrDrop asked Friends of the Earth if it had been invited to a meeting with INEOS. A spokesperson said some of its individual campaigners had been tweeted by INEOS staff but there had been no formal invitation from the company. Friends of the Earth was hoping to meet INEOS and was looking for a date, the spokesperson added. INEOS later got in touch to say that it had received no convenient dates from Friends of the Earth.

Updated 17/2/2017 to include INEOS reaction on meeting dates (see final paragraph above)

This report is part of DrillOrDrop’s Rig Watch project. Rig Watch receives funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. More details here

29 replies »

  1. “One of the easiest and cheapest ways to reduce fuel poverty would be a massive insulation programme and proper intervention in the housing market to make sure all new homes are maximum energy efficient”.

    So, that has not been done already???How many more times do you think the public TAX PAYER will be fooled by such nonsense??

    This is absolute fiction. Billions of Pounds have been spent on such actions in the last few years and you reach an end point, until you decide to flatten all of the housing stock and start again. It is the argument used continuously, but we all find that there is a practical end point. Massive loft insulation, in wall insulation, double glazing and air or earth sourced heat pumps. BUT-add one 90+ year relative into the house and look at your energy bills over a winter! It’s called “care in the community”, heating on 24/7 over the winter with the thermostat at 22C plus.

    I quite agree to alternative energy sources WHEN they have been properly assessed and value for money determined.

    I do not want solar panels made in China using huge amounts of thermal coal energy to manufacture, that are shipped to the UK and then 13 put on a roof produce 33p of energy on a sunny winters day.

    I do not want land based wind turbines that land owners love because the subsidy from tax payers meant they could net £150k each/year, even when not in use.

    I like the idea of lagoon power generation, but at £1 billion for a test facility which “might” work, and which will destroy much of the Lizard to construct, I need more convincing. Or you put a small one on the end of your house, and have to rebuild following vibration damage.

    I do not like the idea of 3 million tonnes of our cereals being processed to produce “green” fuel, when EVEN IN A BUMPER HARVEST that is ALL of the UK surplus cereal production. So, we will not have bread, but are happy with “green” fuel?

    I do not like the idea of energy “schemes” burning wood pellets which means deforesting certain parts of the globe to satisfy our “greenness.” Especially when those green schemes are not controlled and hundreds of millions of £ are wasted.

    If we are going to pay huge prices for NEW nuclear energy (yes, we will) that allows alternative energy to work, I want this discounted by other sources to prevent fuel poverty.

    I do not want to rely on other sources of gas. The Norwegians are lovely people, but will sell to the highest bidder. If Vlad. turns off the taps, that will be a problem. Speak with any Norwegian who has done National Service along their northern border, and what they have been told, and then think security.

    If you want your gas coming around Yemen, good luck!

    When alternative energy no longer means an alternative to sound costings and common sense, then I will say we can not bother with fracking tests. All experience to date shows we are NO way near that. Money has been poured away over the last few years trying to prove the opposite, but almost every time it shows that decisions have been based on false assumptions, and huge amounts of money have been wasted to placate those who propose an alternative which is not practical or available as yet.

    • Totally agree
      Anyone been to Dorset recently to Poole harbour or Kimmeridge Bay to take a look at the largest producers of oil in this country if you don’t know where to look in Poole you would never know.
      The Dorset coast still beautiful.
      Grow up and smell the coffee.

  2. I differ from your views.

    Your premise about conflict and it’s cause is totally incorrect. The biggest cause of conflict around the world is, I am afraid, religion. Religion that has fuelled a concept that “our beliefs make us morally superior to our neighbours.”

    However, facts seem to be a fairly sparse entity on your side of the argument, together with sound science or any concept of cause and effect when reporting on any “research.”

    When you have removed all the plastic from the world, good luck with the quill. The anti capitalist moaning about plastic- on his plastic keyboard, or turning up to his latest demo in his van belching out diesel fumes, where he is out to stop the production of gas that could power all our inner cities bus transport systems with CNG!

  3. It is always interesting to look at the historical and mythological aspects of Sherwood Forest and Robin Hood, there are some very good links on the subject and these are below.
    The character Robin Hood, far from being a single person turns out to be a pagan figure from pre Roman times and goes back into the mists of antiquity and has been remodeled over the ages to suit the recent history of the times, plainly there were people called Robin Hood and some were outlaws though many were also noblemen who had issues with the kings and local landowners.



    The King of the Wood
    and the Battle between Summer and Winter
    To begin his masterpiece, The Golden Bough, Sir James Frazer relates the story of the ancient cult of Diana at Nemi, and the priest who stood guard over her sacred grove and bore the title Rex Nemorensis, or “King of the Wood”. He was the consort of the virgin goddess of the hunt, the divine lover/son who died only to return again, as the greenery does each year.
    The Green Man
    We may gain some clues to Robin’s mythic nature if we analyze his habitual form of dress. Why is Robin so frequently described as wearing green? Likely because he is associated with the mysterious Green Man of art and folklore. Like the Green Man, Robin possibly represents the ancient pagan god of vegetation and fertility, a primordial “Lord of the Trees”.

    Because of the similarity in name, Robin Hood is often thought to be a manifestation of Robin Goodfellow, the mischievous hobgoblin also known as Puck. Jacob Grimm apparently noted the close association of the two Robins, but did not elaborate upon it.

    Robin Hood is a clearly a trickster figure, and may have indeed taken on attributes associated with Robin Goodfellow. He is often content to publicly humiliate a foe, rather than kill him. Moreover, he is a master of disguise and enjoys misleading his enemies.

    Marian represents the Goddess in her maiden aspect. According to Robert Graves, the name “Marian” is a variant of “Mare”, one of the most ancient names for the Lady, dating back thousands of years to ancient Egypt, Sumeria and Minoan Crete. In his masterpiece of mythological interpretation, The White Goddess, Graves equates Maid Marian with the goddess of the sea and sensuality, variously known as Meri (as in Mermaid) Mari, Miriam, Marianne, Myrrha, Marina (of the sea) and Mary Gipsy (Mary the Egyptian). This goddess was Christianized as both St. Mary of Egypt and the Virgin Mary.
    Graves suggests that the name “Maid Marian” is a sort of cultural pun on the term ‘mermaid’ (literally, “maiden of the sea”), also formerly written ‘merry-maid’. This may also be the origin of “The Lady Of The Lake” and Launcelot Du Lac etc.

    Sherwood Forest –
    The Major Oak, Sherwood Forest
    There is much debate as to where Robin’s forest really was. Although Nottingham has the strongest literary tradition, Barnsdale Forest in Yorkshire and Plumpton Park in Lancashire also lay claim to the legend. Sadly, the Sherwood Forest near Nottingham is greatly diminished in size, increasingly encroached by human settlement. To learn about the efforts being made to conserve what is left, check out the Sherwood Initiative homepage.

    Within the remaining forest of Sherwood is a huge, ancient oak tree, known as the Major Oak. Once thought to be 1000 years old, it is the fabled meeting place of Robin and his men. The tree is now propped up to prevent it succumbing to age. Modern dating techniques suggest the tree may actually be only 300 years old, but it is symbolic of Robin and the Greenwood nonetheless. As we have argued, Robin is the Oak King, and any such venerable tree would be sacred to him.

    The name “Sherwood” derives from the term “shire wood”, meaning the forest local to a shire or region. As such, it is a fairly generic term. Rather than being a single physical place, Sherwood is more likely an abstraction, representing “the wilderness” as a whole.

    Within the legends of Sherwood, time stands still. It is perpetually May Day inside Sherwood forest. The Wheel of the Year has ground to a halt. Robin and Marian are the eternal springtime divine lovers. They live happily ever after together without needing to marry, have children, work or grow old. Although there is a ballad telling of the death of Robin, the character will not die. Rather, he is continuously reborn, like the Sun at the Winter Solstice. The tales of Robin & Marian continue to be rewritten and retold even to this day. Perhaps, just as Arthur sleeps in Avalon, to arise when Britain has need of him, so too does Robin sleep in Sherwood, ready to awake and return.


    What i suppose is most significant in this, is that since the shires and the hundreds were imposed by the Norman invaders, the pagan legends have become synonymous with the latter real life characters and in a synchronistic way have become fused with the earlier pagan mythology.

    Reading this shows something more rewarding than just the legend, and that is that we as a nation are brought up on the need for justice in spite of overbearing power bases, be they kings and queens, government, councils, shire reeves (sheriffs) or Industrialised processes imposed against the wishes of the people, or the results of partitioning of the free land to the rich and powerful and theft of lands and property to suit some local or countrywide power base.

    The Shire woods are generic and therefore Sherwood Forest in any shire anywhere in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales is worthy of our protection regardless of its present state of disrepair, and if that protection needs to be by a process confronting local and governmental power oligarchies with the truth of their representative democratic shortcomings regarding our need for justice above a law which has been high jacked to suit the few above the many, then so be it.

    I suspect the deeper back ground behind the legend actually strengthens it and gives it more of a cultural aspect than a single outlaw Robin Goodfellow (Godfellow) and his “Meri” men, stealing from the rich to give to the poor and actually takes on the role of an archetypal figure that has meaning in the wish for justice above mere human law imposed by those who would benefit from monopoly of control. To disrespect the whole Sherwood Forest legend is an offense to English hearts and souls, any such ignorance will only lead to offending the very heart of every English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh person alive today. Legends are one thing, archetypes are a far different aspect of human consciousness, to disrespect such an deep aspect of English culture can only lead to disaster. Essentially it represents the power of good above evil.

    Protection of this land goes for any forest, any village, town city or beauty spot, that is our duty as people of this still fair land and will be so forever. In a very real way, every sacred woodland is a Sherwood and we all represent Robin Hood in our fight for freedom from injustice.

  4. I regard drilling for Shale Gas in Sherwood Forest as a sacrilege. It must be resisted at all cost it should be banned everywhere. .

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