[edit. Forgot the acorns bit] I give this book 7.5 out of 10 acorns!
I recently finished reading Ben Law’s book ‘The Woodland Way‘ and thought I would post a little review.
Overall this is a great book for anyone who is looking to learn about woodland management. Ben Law has been living in the woods of England and managing his area since the early 90’s. He speaks from experience when explaining how to create healthy, bio-diverse environments that create secure livelihoods and yield a great variety of valuable products. He presents a range of practical and tested alternatives to conventional woodland management. This book has many excellent pictures and tables of data for referencing.
One thing about this book, which wasn’t so useful for me, was how specific to Britain a lot of the table information was. He mentions government grants, laws, and organizations, plus other specific things that don’t pertain to Canada. It only makes sense though, being that’s where he lives, but it just didn’t apply here. This book would be much more useful to someone from Britain who could use the specific information to their advantage. That said, there is still plenty of excellent general information in this book.
He starts off the book telling about his love for trees and how modern forest management has degraded our landscapes for short-term financial gain. So he became interested in woodland management to help save the trees and show a sustainable management system that is good for both people and the earth.
He goes on to describe woodland resources, ecosystems, and types of woodlands. Some good bits on transpiration and the holistic nature of a woodland. Here is a good quote:
“To separate a tree from the complex relationship of the whole woodland ecosystem is to misunderstand the holistic patterning of nature. Our natural woodlands follow this pattern and when we start to create monocultural plantations, the web of life is broken and we create environments lacking in species, life force and fertility.”
He goes through a bunch of woodland management techniques like coppice and shredding, plus some planting strategies like shelter belts and hedge rows.
There is a nice piece where he goes into the return of the forest dwellers and what that life is like. There is a cool chart showing all his activities, how they all relate to each other and how he makes a living from the woodland.
He talks about assessing existing woodlands through observation and reading of old records. He goes through a list of things that should be found out through observation when assessing the woodland. Then about reading the signs of the flora and insects to gain more information about a particular woodland.
“Assessment is a skilled and enjoyable activity. Building up a picture of a woodland, getting to understand it intimately takes time, realistically a lifetime.”
The next section is a large, very detailed part on establishing a new woodland in a permaculture way. Lots of good information here which he relates to a bunch of permaculture principles and how they are applied when creating a woodland. He also gives some examples of designed woodlands he worked on and how that went.
Next he talks in detail about the management of a woodland. From different cutting techniques, wildlife management, dealing with different woodland types, to regeneration techniques. This then goes on to talk about using the wood produced and how to extract it with minimal damage to the ecosystem. He gives examples of folks living in the woods, what they are doing and different income streams that can be generated other than just the major timbre.
In the next section he talks in detail about food from the woodland. This section is complete with many tables of detailed information about different layers of food producing plants in the woods. This is particularly good for those in Britain. Many of the species listed here don’t apply to the harsh Canadian climate. The general information is great though. Lots of sources of food to think about in a woodland.
He ends the book with a nice poetic piece about his relationship with the woodland. Here’s a little excerpt.
“I remove my boots and caress the earth with my feet, the soil is cooler now, the woodcock flies over with his familiar ‘rurrp’. I build the fire up and glance across to the ancient oak, soothing words enter my head, ‘I know this place, I belong’ “.
The back of this book is packed with good reference material like tables of tree species and their planting conditions, bibliography, and other useful information pertaining mostly to Britain.
All in all, go check this book out from the library if you are interested in woodland management and if you live in Britain, go buy this book. Definitely a good read.