BOOK REVIEW

Plant a Natural Woodland: A Handbook of Native Trees and Shrubs
by Charlotte de la Bedoyere
Search Press, 2001
Hardback, 112 pages, 19.99
ISBN 0 85532 983 1

If you are someone who is inspired by the majesty, and possibly mystery, of trees, and have a vision of creating a woodland space of your own, then Charlotte de la Bedoyere's book is an excellent place to start.

On an initial flick through the pages the thing which struck this reviewer was the quality of the photographs.... Not so much for their beauty - and certainly there are some of those, such as the full page image opposite the Forward of the gnarled trunk of an ancient arboreal veteran - but rather the 'detail' of the photographs. One major gripe of this reviewer about some of the books reviewed on this website is that the details of specimens mentioned frequently lack detail which aids positive identification. That is generally not the case here, with adequate space given to picture content.

The core of the book are the three sections on Creating a Woodland which offers guidance on planning woodlands, a purely informational Native Trees and Shrubs part, and lastly a section on The Forest Floor which will help would-be wood creators create a more complete biodiverse woodland.

The Introduction has some interesting historical facts - like the 1543 Statute of Woods which required replanting of trees where owners cut down timber - alongside the more philosophical environmental questions which pervade the news of our time.

The opening of the Creating a Woodland section calls on landowners to consider planting new woodland next to existing plots so that plant and animals can 'travel' more easily between new and old. More creative (although practically based) aspects are considered, such as leaving open spaces and including pond areas, as well as the three P's - propogation, planting, and protection from animals, disease and weed encroachment.

The next part of the book is an illustrated section on Britain's native trees which you can plant. Lots of photographs here plus boxouts for each species which indicate deciduous or evergreen specimens, and specimen size after ten years, plus notes on how to propogate each species.

Part three - A Guide to Forest Floor Plants - is an essential guide to filling in the gaps of your would-be woodland paradise. Again, the section is well illustrated and provides useful habitat details plus information on which wildlife species will find a particular plant beneficial.

The latter part of de la Bedoyere's work includes a list of tree and wildlife-related organisations, and suppliers of native plants and seeds.

Bottom line...
This is a book really only suited to those with a vision of creating a woodland space. And although the illustrations are excellent they are not comprehensive enough to form a tree 'field guide'. One thing which is not present are any woodland 'plans', but then a natural woodland should look natural should it not? Lastly, there's the impression that this is written by someone in tune with the natural world about them. If you've got an itch to fill a space of land with trees, go get.

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