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The Heart of the Woods

"A beautiful journey through our magical woodlands and the lives of those who nurture them."

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LoveReading Says

LoveReading Says

The opening chapter of The Heart of the Woods follows a father, son and grandson as they plant woodland on the border between Wales and England. The middle member of that family group is Wyl Menmuir who poignantly writes about their efforts to restore what was once there, and that which has so shaped our lives, our culture, our tools and even the ornaments in our homes. He describes how the ancient wildwood which covered so much of these islands is almost entirely gone, replaced by a patchwork of fields bordered by stone and hedgerow, but there are still woods and forests which are being nurtured as we desperately attempt to reverse the devastation we wreaked upon the landscape.

This book brings our attention back to the importance of trees, of woodland and of wood. Wyl travels the country, meeting people that have made living and working with wood or with woodland their life's work, indeed their lives. A boatbuilder in Penryn. The bodgers of Cambridge. A seed collector in County Clare. An actor (Mark Rylance) at the Globe Theatre. An entire community in Scotland. Construction, biodiversity, carving, planting, hugging, coppicing, worshipping... it's all in here and as every page turns the realisation grows of just how fundamental trees have been to our species, especially at our approximate line of latitude where there has been so much diversity and abundance of wood.

There is something about the writing style of Wyl Menmuir that engages with the subject matter on an ethereal level. So deep-rooted is our connection with trees that these stories transcend the practical and the everyday. He is without doubt one of the best writers currently exploring our connection with nature, or our reconnection with it following centuries of moving away from it in the pursuit of civilisation. I loved those moments of the book where he touches down on those simple but essential symbols and simple acts of understanding between humans and trees, and how that relationship with them roots us.

We need books like The Heart of the Woods to remind us who we are, what we have lost, and where we need to get back to.

Greg Hackett

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