The narratives of trees
Richard Mabey's new book is about beech trees - but also, of course, about numerous other issues, including global warming and the importance of trees in the landscape. Trees are the largest and most significant organisms on our planet; and this is Mabey's most poetic, most enjoyable, most profound and challenging book to date.
Beech trees reached Britain about 8,000 years ago, and they were workhorses, not ornaments - fuel for Rome's glassworks; firewood for London; oars for the ships of Venice; raw material for furniture, cut and turned by 'bodgers' who lived like nomads among the trees in huts made of beechwood shavings.
Mabey covers Europe as well as Britain, and autobiography as well as history and natural history. His beeches are characterful - 'hectic, gale-sculpted, gnomic' - and he writes about the bluebells, orchids, fungi, deer and badgers associated with them, as well as the narratives we tell about trees and the images we make of them. Many other kinds of tree are featured, and the portraits and celebrations of the beech always point to the larger story. More than all this, Beechcombings is a personal investigation of the ambivalent, engimatic relationship that humans have with trees.
“Britain's greatest living nature writer”
“Richard Mabey is a man for all seasons, most regions and every kind of landscape”
Andrew Motion, Financial Times
“Radiant, tingle-making prose has earned Mabey literary prizes and a multitude of fans”