Review published on November 29, 2017.
After many years of the headlong rush of people and traffic that is London, Ruth Pavey felt that she needed to re-connect with the countryside in one way or another and having a small piece of England that she could call her own and maybe plant a small woodland would be just perfect. The best-laid plans of mice and men don’t always work out though and after a lot of searching and viewing fields that were not really going to be suitable, a plot came up at auction. With around £10,000 to spend and an assurance that it wouldn’t go for more than that Ruth was stunned when it sold for £19,500. The wreck of a house and accompanying land sold for over £100k and that left a small piece of wooded scrubland. The opening bid was £2000 and after a few nervous moments, it was hers for the price of £2750.
She finally had her own woodland.
Having only visited briefly before, it was time to fully explore just what she had bought. It was a strange shape, squeezed in between an orchard, fields and ash woods and sloped facing the sun. As it had been uncared for there was a large amount of thicket and it felt dark, private and slightly intimidating. As she spoke to the people that owned it before and other locals, slowly the wood revealed its secrets to her. The first summer spent there gave her a better feel for the place and she begins to formulate plans of what would work best. A rollalong was acquired purely by chance and suddenly Ruth had a place to make a hot drink and shelter from the showers and maybe, just maybe, she could stay the night in her wood.
It took a number of years for Ruth to bring the wood into some sort of order, but it still had its wild and unruly elements to it and for her and her friends it was a place of solace, somewhere for reflection and to immerse themselves into the natural world. This is more than a book about her wood, as she explores the wider landscape around the Somerset levels and discovers the history of her patch and the people that used to own it. Ruth does not set out to turn it into a productive wood so if you are hoping for a book about woodland management or coppicing then you may want to look elsewhere. Ruth wants to make this a personal place and plants the woodland with fruit and other trees to remember people who have been significant in her life. It is a touching memoir written with gentle and thoughtful prose. I now am envious as I have always wanted a woodland I could call my own.
Paul Cheney 4/3
A Wood of One’s Own by Ruth Pavey
Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd 9780715652237 hbk Sep 2017
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