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Woodlands (2006)

by Oliver Rackham

Series: New Naturalist (100)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1233192,694 (4.38)7
This guide explores the significance and history of woodlands on the British landscape. Reconstructing British woodland, it investigates what woods are and how they function. It describes the basic botany, and features an outline of woodland history, pollen analysis and wildwood.
  1. 00
    The New Forest by Colin R. Tubbs (Peasant)
  2. 00
    Wildwood: A Journey through Trees by Roger Deakin (chrisharpe)
  3. 00
    The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage (Polaris-)
    Polaris-: Both books' authors hold tremendous regard for the methods and traditions used in managing landscapes by the local peoples - be they indigenous Australians or traditional British woodsmen.
  4. 00
    Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape by Oliver Rackham (chrisharpe)
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Showing 3 of 3
100th volume in the New Naturalist library
  stevholt | Nov 19, 2017 |


Oh dammit. I just finished this. I had no idea that after 77% it would be the footnotes etc. This fascinating, beautifully written, witty book about British woods has been part of my morning, specifically that little read before coffee while I'm enjoying my still warm covers, for about a year now.
British woods are small worlds with fascinating all kinds of fascinating interlocking ecologies. The Quebec woods have all that too, but half an hour north, it gets vast and boreal pretty fast. My eldest daughter has seen it all the way up to the transitional forest before the tundra. She took a school trip to La Baie James. I still remember poring over her photos from a Kodak disposable camera of bottle-brush conifers getting smaller and smaller, until it seemed they could barely scrub out a wine decanter. We waste our woods too because we think they're infinite like the buffalo of the Great Plains.
I used to wonder what it would be like to look at a room and see a history of who was ever there, and what went on it. Such thoughts come when living an old house (young by British standards). Oliver Rackham is one of those people who can do that with woods. There is a lot of history in this book but not the usual kind to do with battles to do with ownership, usage, the introduction of non-native trees, fashions in conservation. And there are maps, some of them older than cathedrals that show individual trees. His example photos are from everywhere. I liked that. It reminded me how these individual woods belonged to the whole. I am also less worried about my silver maple after reading about the long cycles of woods and how trees handle different kinds of stress. Old silver maple has had a few dry years. My ash trees however, are likely doomed. The ash borer is here (globalization of pest species; when they travel, the things that eat them and keep them under control don't travel with them).
My only regret was that I got this in ebook form. The paper copy was pricey and hard to find and there it was, instant read in the dark gratification, but this is really a book I'd like be able to pull from the shelf and leaf through. I'm going to look for a paper copy.
There's an old parking lot in Lachine by some abandoned property where the grass is growing through the asphalt and lately, the beginnings of trees.
"The easiest way to create a new wood is do nothing." ( )
1 vote dmarsh451 | Mar 31, 2013 |
Woodlands is a fascinating, albeit specialised, read. After the introductory chapter, chapter two appropriately starts at the bottom with the essentials, roots and makes very interesting reading; but some of the subsequent chapters are rather more specialised, for example Pollen Analysis and Woodland. Other chapter titles include: Archives of Woodland and How to Study Them; Archaeology and Land-Forms of Woodland and Wood-Pasture; Uses of Wood and Timber . . . ; Ancient Woodland Plants and Other Creatures; Environment, Pathology and Ecology . . . ; Modern Forestry . . . ; and Experiments and Long-Terms Observations are just a few of the twenty two chapters. It is packed with information both specific and incidental to woodlands. The book includes, in addition to References, a Bibliography, Tables and a comprehensive Index.

The book is illustrated, the illustrations grouped in signatures spaced throughout the book, four in all containing over 200 photographs, maps and diagrams, predominately in colour. With two or more pictures to a page they tend necessarily to be rather small, adding to the impression, along with the small type and densely packed pages, that this a studios work and certainly not a picture book!

While Rackham writes essentially about British woodland, he makes it clear that much of what he has to say can be applied to other countries. ( )
  presto | Apr 24, 2012 |
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Epigraph
The commercial harvesting of timber, for use or sale, is often considered a prime cause of te disappearance of forests. But it need not be, and under proper management it never is. . . . the mere cutting of timber need not seriously harm the woods. What does the damage is the prevention of regrowth thereafter . . .
H.L. Edlin, Trees, Woods and Man 1956

Chapter 1. The constant spring : what trees and woods are and how they behave.
. . . from 1940 to 1945 I was concerned with fire-fighting arrangements over many thousands of acres of forest in the South of England . . . these were subject to unusual risks from large scale military training and aircraft and . . . German incendiary bombs . . . any kind of vegetation that could be set alight, and had of course to be tackled by fire-fighters. Broadleaved woodland of any kind simply refused to burn at any time, although fires in coniferous plantations, and among heather and gorse, were serious and frequent.
H.L. Edlin, Trees, Woods and Man 1956

Chapter 2. Some less familiar properties of trees : roots, partnerships, longevity, tree rings, sap-suckling, fire.

[And so on for all twenty two chapters].
Dedication
In Memory of Stuart Max Walters, 1920-2005
For sixty years Max Walters was a pillar of the New Nauralist series. He was author with John Gilmour of Wild Flowers, no.5 (1954) and ...
[Continued for a page and a half].
First words
This is not a book about the Environment.

Author's foreword and acknowledgements.
In an ideal world, trees would be like an inferior sort of animal or a very infrior sort of person.

Chapter 1. The constant spring : what trees and woods are and how they behave.
Quotations
"This is not a book about the Environment. It does not pretend that trees are merely a part of the theatre of landscape
in which human history is played out, or the passive recipients of whatever destiny humanity foists on them. This is a
book about Ecology. It deals with trees as actors in the play, and with multiple interactions between trees and the
environment, trees and other trees, trees and other plants, trees and fungi, trees and animals, and trees and people. ...



"I am not a forester. I am a general practitioner of science, trained as a botanist--at first specializingin plant
physiology, in how plants (especially woodland herbs) functioned. ...



"I write as a now rather old-fashioned botanist, concerned with woodland as an ecosystem with a life of its own, in
which human agency is one among many environmental factors. In this book trees are themselves wildlife, rather than merely a
habitat for wildlife.


"Times have changed even since my own earlier books. Modern forestry is in decline, partly because the economic basis
on which it was justified has collapsed. It will, no doubt, continue in a modest way, but it no longer dominates the woodland
scene, and an ecologist need no longer be apologetic about having little to say about the ecology of plantations. Popular
affection for woods and trees flourishes as never before, albeit sometimes embarrassingly ill informed. There has been a revival
of the historic love of ancient trees, which were unfashionable in (my great predecessor's, H.L. Edlin) Edlin's time to the
point that he regretted their existence. ...




"I have always been concerned with the history of woodland--with the histories of individual woods, rather than the history
of generalizations about woodland. This is not merely my own inclination: woodland by its very nature can be understood only
in terms of historical processes. To describe it only at a moment in time, or in terms of a three-year Ph.D. study, is like
expecting to understand how a cornfield functions after one day's observations." ...
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This guide explores the significance and history of woodlands on the British landscape. Reconstructing British woodland, it investigates what woods are and how they function. It describes the basic botany, and features an outline of woodland history, pollen analysis and wildwood.

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