by Roger Deakin.
A celebration of all things arboreal.
Nobody wrote about trees as well as the late Roger Deakin. Wildwood is a celebration of all things arboreal. It is set mostly in Britain, but Deakin also makes excursions to Australia (which I didn’t find particularly interesting) and the apple and walnut forests of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (which was fascinating). But Deakin’s writing is at its best when he writes about the trees in and around his beloved Walnut Tree Farm.
The book contains many facinating facts about wood. For example, mahogany caught on with British furniture-makers after the French banned the export of walnut timber following the bitter winter of 1709, which killed off so many walnut trees. And sycamore wood was always used for milk pails because it was the only wood which didn’t impart any taste on the milk. In a fabulous couple of chapters, Deakin also tells us about (and revisits) an inspirational teacher who inspired his love of nature with school science field-trips to the New Forest.
At one point, Deakin quotes the writer Italo Calvino’s definition of a classic book as ‘a book that has not finished saying what it has to say’. I liked this definition a lot. Deakin’s thought-provoking book is, by this definition, undoubtedly a classic. The world lost a unique voice with his untimely death.
Postscript, 11-May-2012: I have just re-read this book. I stand by everything I said above. It is still a very good read.