A Tale of Trees - A book that will make you want to plant a tree, or five, immediately. August 15, 2017 12:15

local woodland seen through fresh eyesConfession time. Late last year, I bought my Dad a copy of A Tale of Trees by Derek Neimann for his birthday, safe in the knowledge that I would be shortly 'borrowing' that book back to enjoy myself. Shameless, but true. 

Generous to a fault, I did let him read it first, only to snatch it out of his mitts the moment it became available. And I have to tell you about it, because along with The Garden Awakening by Mary Reynolds, this book has left a lasting impression. 

A Tale of Trees charts the demise and near destruction of Britain's ancient woods. Candid and with good humour, the author draws you deeper and deeper into the plot; involving a hungry, postwar Britain, a farming community under pressure to feed the nation and a small, disparate band of government departments, charities, community groups and conservationists, all working with the best of intention, but often under false pretences. 

Don't be fooled by the unassuming size of this book - it packs a punch. Like all good dramas, it is full action and the story is told at a pace. Within one paragraph you can be transported from Kent's coppiced woodland to the firs and pines of the Scottish highlands. At times, I wanted to grab a map, just to see where I was. And I'll be honest, I felt a little like Martin Freeman's Watson when Sherlock Holmes was trying to explain the findings of his 'mind palace' - mouth open and slightly stupid, in dire need of a few pictures.  

Towards the end of the book, just when you think that the woodland is safe, it's plight finally understood; the delicate balance that is needed for it to prosper; the absolute need for man and wood to work together, to create the right conditions for so many of our native woodland flowers, birds & butterflies, at just that moment, a cruel twist, carried on the winds of the Far East, casts an even darker shadow. 

At this point, I wanted to run outside, dig up the garden and start sowing acorns. This book gets you by the guts and your response is equally visceral. You want the hero, the ancient woodland, to survive and I for one, feel moved to do something about it, no matter how small.

A Tale of Trees is an enlightening read about one of our most precious, treasured habitats. It is a call to action. It is a generous gift; patiently imparting a deeper understanding of our woodland and countryside. And it is an ultimately hopeful tale, told with a good dose of humour and compassion for every party involved. 

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