The Wood – The Life & Times of Cockshutt Wood
by John Lewis-Stempel
The standard of nature writing over recent years has just got better and better, we are so fortunate to have so many great nature writers in the UK and twice winner of the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing. (2015 & 2017) John Lewis-Stempel returns with his best book to date. The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood is an intimate account of John’s last year managing this three and half acres of mixed woodland in Herefordshire.
Lewis-Stempel’s latest has been written in a diary format and takes us through the four season and the changing face of Cockshutt Wood, the flora and fauna of this working wood comes to life through the poetic words of a nature writer at his very best. We meet the Tawny Owl who is affectionately known as ‘Old Brown’ the various animals from pigs to sheep who mad the wood their home to keep the dreaded bramble at bay.
The book starts in December when the days are at their shortest but even now when the trees are dormant there is still life in John’s working wood. The sheer beauty of this book is how John brings the history, poetry and even recipes (some of which I will be trying through the course of the year) There are recipes ranging from Acorn Coffee, Chestnut Soup and Elderflower Champagne.
John comes from a farming family that dates back to the 13th Century and is ideally placed to write about countryside as he sees it, his passion for everything in the countryside and its history and future. As the season moves from Winter to Spring, Cockshutt Wood wakens from its deep winter sleep, animals and amphibians that have slept through the cold and dark winter months now feel the warmth of Spring and waken from their slumber. The mixed woodland now starts to come to life, the sap is rising with the temperature.
The poetry is just wonderful and carefully selected and really works to bring the wood alive. The sights and sounds and even the smell of the wood just seep from every page not to mention the recipes. John ends his tenure managing the wood in the month of November with the words “I though the trees belonged to me, but I now realise I belonged to them” As he left the wood there is a sense of pain at leaving the wood and its inhabitants behind. The writer at one with the countryside and a book that deserves the plaudits. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The Wood – The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood by John Lewis-Stempel is published by Doubleday and was published on 8th March 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.