Henry David Thoreau


Thoreau died 158 years ago today, on 6th May 1862, at the young age of 44. Tuberculosis finally carried him off 17 years after the spring of 1845 when he built his cabin in the woods by Walden Pond. His works are full of quotable passages, and I picked one suited to the current lockdown:

We should impart our courage, and not our despair, our health and ease, and not our disease, and take care that this does not spread by contagion.

(Walden, Ch 1, “Economy”)

“Into the forest” by Qing Li

This concise but beautifully illustrated book was originally published as “Shinrin-Yoku: the art and science of forest bathing” but now appears as “Into the forest: how trees can help you find health and happiness“. There is plenty of substance behind the pictures: Qing Li is regarded as the world’s leading expert on forest medicine, and was instrumental in providing a scientific basis for the benefits of Japanese shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing”.

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“Thirty years in wilderness wood” by Chris Yarrow

“Thirty years in wildness wood” is the long story of the Yarrow family’s purchase of a 63 acre woodland, how they lived in it, managed it, and made a living from it. The book has strong parallels with “A wood of our own” by Julian Evans: both Evans and Chris Yarrow are trained foresters, buying woodlands privately and then managing them for decades, improving the mix of species with long term objectives in mind. Their stories are set against the same backdrop of English forestry in the last few decades, and both had to deal with the aftermath of the Great Storm of 1987. But Yarrow’s project was more ambitious: to use the woodland as a primary source of income,  and to demonstrate the idea of multipurpose forestry by harvesting wood and timber, producing and selling wood products on site,  and admitting a paying public.

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Regulating wet firewood

Woodfuel has been in the news the last few days following the government’s announcement about restrictions on selling firewood to domestic users in England. What they’re trying to do is worthwhile, but the proposals raise some issues for owners of small woodlands. I believe there need to be exemptions for people selling less than about 50 cubic metres of firewood per year. Otherwise the regulations will inhibit small woodlands’ role in fighting climate change and attempts to bring half of England’s native woodlands back into management.

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“The hidden life of trees” by Peter Wohlleben

Wohlleben’s book was originally published in German in 2015 and then translated and published in English in 2016. The book attracted a lot of mainstream interest due to Wohlleben’s “wood wide web” description of trees communicating with each other and sharing nutrients. I was aware of this at the time and I must admit the way he presented it all put me off. But I’ve now read the book and that’s only a small part of the wide range of topics he covers.

Peter Wohlleben began his career as a forester for the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany but became disillusioned with the “big forestry” style of management and began managing a beechwood for the local council of Hummel. He published several successful books about forests, nature, and threats to the environment, before “The hidden life of trees”.

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