The Wood for the Trees: The Long View of Nature from a Small Wood

by Richard Fortey

Rating: ★★★

A senior palaeontologist retires, and takes to pottering around a small patch of woodland as a hobby. The resulting book is a gently-crafted assemblage of minutia, as he roams around making observations of the plants and wildlife, occasionally calling in experts from his professional network, who can provide special expertise on the matter of crane flies or lichen.

Intermixed with this, Fortey outlines the results of historical research on the wood, tying its history in with that of the country generally, and demonstrating how the economics and second-order effects of technology have had specific impact on his small patch of forest, over many centuries. Threads are drawn connecting luminaries as disparate as Charles I and John Stuart Mill to the small wooded area.

There's certainly nothing particularly wrong with this book, and if the above description gave rise to some approval in you, then you will most likely be satisfied. Fortey is detailed in his description and in good command of his prose. I simply failed to be gripped by the subject as much as I might have hoped.