Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees, Roger Deakin 2007

Not everyone will enjoy Deakin’s journey through trees, but I did.  I read it off and on over a period of months, which may be what the author intended.  It’s a meandering tale of Deakin’s travels from Suffolk, England where he resurrected an old manor house complete with moat and extensive woods to far flung parts of the world, always motivated by explorations of trees, woods, forests.  His visits to Bieszczady Woods in Poland, the Pilliga Forest in Australia, the wild apple and wild walnut forests in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and to artists working in wood and foresters throughout the British Isles are related in often beautiful prose, dotted with strange words about wood, tools, forestry, and art.  In one sentence, I came across  spar-gads, brorch, and liggers when he was describing the gathering of hazel wood and its preparation for thatching roofs.

Deakin sadly died at 63 the year before this book was published, taking with him a vast repository of knowledge, experience, and wisdom.  The book can be enjoyed on so many levels—a how-to-do-it manual for pruning hedges or for thatching a roof, a travelogue to some of the most isolated parts of the world, a botanical guide book on trees and their origins, and a paean to nature.  What comes through most strongly, however, is Deakin’s ability to relate to people all over the world no matter their ethnicity, religion, or culture.  His real love for people is only met by his love for trees and the connections between these two.

Deakin is perhaps best known for his 1999 book  Waterlog in which he extols the virtues of wild swimming, i.e. swimming in rivers, lakes, moats and anywhere one finds water.  It began a craze for wild swimming that began in the UK and swept the world.  Sad that this creative and resourceful man died so young.