Tuesday, 29 May 2018
The Wood for the Trees by Richard Fortey
Richard Fortey is a scientist best known for his work in paleontology (you can read my brief reviews of other books of his here). The Wood for the Trees however is a wonderfully thorough exploration of a small patch of woodland that Fortey owns in the Chiltern Hills.
He takes us through the history of the woods through the centuries, including how thewoods have been affected by changing land use patterns and changing fashions in using wood as a material for furniture and fuel. He details the seasonal changes in the plant and animal life of the woods. Fortey isn't the kind of nature writer to wax lyrical about nature in general, he waxes lyrical about the details of things that many people would overlook and he notices everything - he has found well over 300 species of fungi in his wood! He is adept too at making the connections, finding cherry pits that have been nibbled by wood mice and then finding where the mice are living.He is also very aware of his own limitations and has consulted experts in the fields where he isn't able to identify species himself, weaving their input into the complete story of his woods.
Fortey would be a brilliant companion for a walk through any British woodland and reading this book inspires me to pay even more attention when I'm next in the woods.
This is a totally fascinating and satisfying read for anyone who is interested in natural history. A book to enjoy and learn from and read over and over again.
The Wood for the Trees by Richard Fortey published by William Collins Books (2016)