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About the book
  • Published: 6 June 2013
  • ISBN: 9781448189823
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 304

The Ash and The Beech

The Drama of Woodland Change

Formats & editions

A timely new edition of Richard Mabey's profound and poetic book, Beechcombings, now updated with a new foreword and afterword by the author

From ash die-back to the Great Storm of 1987 to Dutch elm disease, our much-loved woodlands seem to be under constant threat from a procession of natural challenges. Just when we need trees most, to help combat global warming and to provide places of retreat for us and our wildlife, they seem at greatest peril. But these dangers force us to reconsider the narrative we construct about trees and the roles we press on them.

In this now classic book, Richard Mabey looks at how, for more than a thousand years, we have appropriated and humanised trees, turning them into arboreal pets, status symbols, expressions of fashionable beauty - anything rather than allow them lives of their own. And in the poetic and provocative style he has made his signature, Mabey argues that respecting trees' independence and ancient powers of survival may be the wisest response to their current crises.

Originally published with the title Beechcombings, this updated edition includes a new foreword and afterword by the author.

  • Pub date: 6 June 2013
  • ISBN: 9781448189823
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 304

About the Author

Richard Mabey

Richard Mabey is the acclaimed author of some thirty books including Gilbert White, which won the Whitbread Biography Award in 1986, Flora Britannica(1995), winner of a National Book Award, and Nature Cure (2005), which was short-listed for three major literary awards, the Whitbread, Ondaatje, and J.R. Ackerley prizes. He writes for the GuardianNew Statesman and Granta, and contributes frequently to BBC radio. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Also by Richard Mabey

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Praise for The Ash and The Beech

“Wonderfully subversive, far-reaching and unsentimental”


“Richard Mabey is a man for all seasons, most regions and every kind of landscape”

Andrew Motion, Financial Times

“An elegant and heartfelt essay on mankind's changing relationship with trees”

Sunday Telegraph

“A leaf-storm of philosophical musings, journeys of mind and body, reflections and anecdotes that imprint the tree on human culture”

Sunday Times

“A terrific combination of both natural and intellectual history, informed by penetrating insight”


“This is the book of range and ambitions that his many admirers hoped he would write. Refreshing, droll, politically alert, occasionally self-mocking, he has the enviable ability both to write historical overview and also to slip into the woods like a dryad, bringing us back to the trees themselves, their colours and lights and textures”


“A writer to cherish”

Evening Standard

“A characteristically rich and individual mix of history, natural science, folklore, poetry, politics and personal observation... Mabey's writing is a brilliant in its minutely observed detail as in its broad sweeps”

Diane Summers, Financial Times

“As always, Mabey's thoughts make compelling reading... This is a book by a man who doesn't just know, but understands trees”

Tree News

“It's a scientific, historical, poetic account written in a quietly humorous, thoughtful style”

Tom Moriarty, Irish Times

“He found his best form as a storyteller and interpreter of the dynamic nature of our native woodlands.”

Ian Edwards, Reforesting Scotland

“An informative history of the English relationship with trees”

Arminta Wallace, Irish Times

“Elegant and heartfelt… Part eco-memoir, part monograph, wholly engrossing”

Daily Telegraph

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