Where stickers stroll from day to day
And gather loads of rotten wood
And poachers left in safety stray
When midnight wears its deepest mood.
(from Walks in the Woods)
Clare's natural sympathies are with the "stickers," as he calls them: the "wood-men," on the other hand, the agents of the landowners, are "terrifying rascals" who "make a prison of the forrests and are its joalers." (sic) Just as the fallen wood belonged by right to the local inhabitants in the forests in all parts of Europe, so, according to popular belief, did the fallen wood belong to the locals near the oak woods of Stamford, and, in both regions, led to conflict between landowners and peasants, between the lord's steward and gypsies, or the woodman and villagers.
The conflict over wood extended to other products of the waste -- rabbits, hares, birds, withies, reeds, cresses, sloes, dewberries, nuts, mushrooms, elderberries, wild strawberries and blackberries, not to mention eggs, snakes, deer, eels, fish, and other edibles. The custom of nutting, which Clare celebrates, was particularly disliked by the landowners, their servants and the tenant-farmers. The pages of the Stamford Mercury and Drakard's Stamford News are filled with advertisements and articles regarding the practice; the Mercury, upholding the rights of the landowners, the News those of the rural population.
From a essay by Eric Robinson ~ Wordsworth Circle (2007)