The English love for ‘our’ woodlands runs deep and strong. Witness the astonishing furore a few years ago when the government proposed selling off some Forestry Commission land. Middle England united in a howl of outrage at this monstrous threat to our beloved woods (despite the Forestry Commission’s lamentable record of stewardship) and the
government duly backed down.
This sylvan passion is reflected in the long history of English woodland writing, from Shakespeare’s enchanted forests to John Evelyn’s magisterial Sylva of 1664 and all the way on to Gabriel Hemery and Sarah Simblet’s The New Sylva 450 years later, by way of such wood-loving writers as Edward Thomas, H E Bates, John Stewart Collis and, more recently, Richard Mabey and Roger Deakin. And now along comes Richard Fortey’s The Wood for the Trees, the story of one man and his wood.
In 2011, Fortey seized the opportunity to buy Grim’s Dyke Wood, ‘four acres of ancient beech-and-bluebell woodland, buried deeply inside a greater stretch of stately trees’ in the Chiltern Hills. He began to keep a diary to document the wildlife and the changing feel of the wood through the seasons,