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251 of 253 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare, Eccentric Gem
This is one of those delightful books that you stumble on from time to time that is almost impossible to categorise.

Roger Deakin was a campaigner, writer and environmentalist; he was one of the founding members of Friends of the Earth. He was a true English eccentric. He lived in a house, in Suffolk with a moat - in which he swam regularly. A few years ago he...
Published on 29 Jan. 2008 by Andrew Howell

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76 of 95 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well, it's not that good...
After reading the uncritical praise heaped on 'Wildwood', I had to try and take a more measured approach to try and balance things out. Don't get me wrong, I loved Deakin's previous book, where he seemed incapable of putting a word out of place, and everything was relevant to the central premise.

Here, I could have quite happily missed out 150-200 pages from...
Published on 23 Aug. 2007 by Mr. C. Davis


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251 of 253 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare, Eccentric Gem, 29 Jan. 2008
By 
Andrew Howell "andyhowell3" (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is one of those delightful books that you stumble on from time to time that is almost impossible to categorise.

Roger Deakin was a campaigner, writer and environmentalist; he was one of the founding members of Friends of the Earth. He was a true English eccentric. He lived in a house, in Suffolk with a moat - in which he swam regularly. A few years ago he wrote a book that centred on his desire to visit - and to swim in - most of the important bits of water in the UK (and many less important ones as well).

In this book Deakin turns his attention to wood - all things to do wtih wood, wood clearly being one of the passions of his life.

So, Deakin explores woods. He camps out in woods to be at one with the environment and the wildlife. He camps in woods in England and explores woods around the world. But he also turns his mind to other things to do with wood.

There are fantastic articles on driftwood for example, There are pieces on artists who work in wood. There are contemplations on the economic value of wood and how it may yet have a major role to play in creating a sustainable world economy.

Deakin's writing style is fluid, easy to follow and very entertaining. He is both eccentric and funny; a genuinely warm man.

Sadly, Deakin died just after this book was completed. I wonder to what extent this was conceived and put together as a very unique work of love. Still, Wildwood stands as a fine legacy to a superb writer.

I wish I could describe this book more fully but I simply wouldn't be able to do it justice. But if this sounds remotely interesting go and buy it. You won't be disappointed.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes but no but yes, 28 May 2009
By 
Black Box (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees (Paperback)
I got this book last week for a spot of light holiday reading. I didn't know Roger Deakin's work or history beforehand, so I had no preconceptions - like many people I'm just partial to a bit of wood.

Within maybe 2 pages I was hooked - this guy can (could) really write. Within a chapter I was happily telling people they should read Wildwood, because it felt important and significant to do so - and why hadn't I heard of it before? The information being imparted was useful, interesting, thoughtful, and most of all wonderfully expressed. The text fires you up to get out and have similar experiences while you still can.

A week later and I've gone off the boil a bit; the book's slightly dull middle section dragged me down - with Deakin drifting around Europe & Australia with various friends in tow. It just doesn't have the sparkle of the earlier chapters. Which is a pity, because it would have been a stunning tour-de-force if sustained. At the moment I feel the very similar 'The Country of Wild Clover' by HE Bates - equally nostalgic, equally elegeic - shades it in almost every respect.

However it's still damn good, and worth the admission price for the first 100 pages alone. The overwhelming thing I take away from the book is the very simple message that you don't have to give up on having A Sense Of Wonder (thanks, Van) just because you're getting older and grumpier. The rest of Deakin's canon will certainly be on my 'must read' list from now on.
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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, and inspired, 10 Feb. 2008
By 
Henk Beentje "Henk Beentje" (Kew, England) - See all my reviews
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A lovely book. I came upon Wildwood as a novice, never having read anything by Deakin before - but he is good; he is very good. The book comes in four main blocks: Roots, about his home and youth; Sapwood, on British wood, woods and artists; Driftwood, on his travels in Europe, Australia and central Asia; and Heartwood, back to his home area of Suffolk. Each block comes in short chapters, full of information, insight, and excellent writing. He likes sleeping outside or in an old railway wagon, and links this to writings by Jefferies or Thoreau, recites the beams in his house, or starts talking about an ancient propeller hub in his study and diversifies that into walnut and all its applications, down to Jaguar gear knobs. I could have done without the Australian bits - they just don't resonate for me (hence four stars). But the Kazak and Kyrgyz chapters are wonderful, and more than make up for it. He is never dull - the writing is full of links to the familiar, observations on new insights, fascinating snippets. This is an inspiring book, by an inspired writer.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's this bloke I met who knows a lot about trees, 10 Jan. 2009
By 
Catherine Murphy "drcath" (Norway) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees (Paperback)
One of the tricks a writer of this type of non fiction must pull off is to make him- or herself - likeable. Otherwise, the impression, especially with nature writing, can be a little too earnest.

Deakin pulls this off in spades. He's the kind of man you can imagine meeting in his local pub, probably supping a real ale of some kind. He looks interesting, you fall into conversation, before you know it you've agreed to meet him the next day to coppice some hazel. I'll bet Roger Deakin had a lot of friends and acquaintances because reading this book makes you feel as if you know him. It is a book about trees, obviously this is a subject that fascinates him, but it is really about him and that's what makes it so readable.

Not that I want to downplay the forest element. I loved the description of cricket bat making (now there's a British industry for you), the part about the origins of apples (from the far East! Who would have thought it!), the process of driftwood decomposition. I complain in a review about "The Wild Places" that Robert Macfarlane fails to distil his messages sufficiently. I guess Deakin is guilty of the same thing, but with him it doesn't matter. The detail is so enjoyable, the character so engaging, that it's like reading a long letter from a dear, rarely seen friend.
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110 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joyful discoveries, 26 Jun. 2007
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I have read 'Wildwood' in delighted instalments, each night before drifting off to sleep, mundanely abed, unlike the 'Boys'Own' adventurer that Roger Deakin obviously was. Never happier, it seems, than camping out in the depths of an ancient wood listening to the rookery above.

This is no dull natural history book but a series of blissful nuggets of information strung together on a thread of gleaming prose. Poetry, delightful humour, child-like glee and a profound erudition illuminate this work and make it a pure joy to read. I cannot recommend it highly enough & have bought copies for all my friends!
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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to savour next to a roaring log (oops!) fire, 29 Mar. 2008
By 
Big Jim "Big Jim" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Sorry about the pun above, but it's true. This is a large book that deserves a huge armchair, a wee dram and the aforementioned fire.

At last I have got round to reading this, and devoured it over a wet Easter weekend. If ever a book encouraged you to get out there and actually SEE the natural world around you, and APRECIATE it, then this is the one. Sure there are minor criticisms, mainly stylistic, but if you read this in conjunction with his good friend Robert McFarlane's book you will see that this book was (possibly) written under circumstances where the author was unwell, which perhaps leads to the sometimes "bitty" nature of the narrative. But even without eulogising too much over this one, the author's love of the countryside shines through and if the purpose of this book is to put that across and get the reader to think outside their four walls then this surely succeeds.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Patchy but well worth it, 10 Mar. 2009
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This review is from: Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees (Paperback)
As previous reviewers have noted, this book appeared posthumously; it was written when Deakin was unwell, and might well have been revised further had he lived longer. An element of patchiness is perhaps unavoidable in those circumstances. The bulk of the book, however, stands up very well.

Having explored one elemental substance in "Waterlog" Deakin turns here to wood, and provides a series of interlinked essays on the substance itself and on the lives of the trees. At its best, this opens up wonderful levels of detail and close attention to things too often taken for granted, making one feel that one's seeing something for the first time. Deakin has a willingness to get up-close and personal with nature in a way most of us can only dream about: his description of spending the night in only a sleeping bag on the floor of a wood below a rookery is a masterpiece of close observation of the natural world, and is a demonstration of how as modern humans our default need for a shelter of some sort - even if only a tent - cuts us off from a great deal. Sounds, sights and textures are all lovingly explored in the nature writings in the book. There are also writings on art, which are not always so successful - descriptions of sculptures made of charred or waterlogged wood continue the tactile themes of elsewhere in the book, but some of the descriptions of visual art can be less arresting, in the absence of reproductions, and one sometimes has the feeling of Deakin doing a round-up of his friends, particularly given that the writing on art is uniformly laudatory. When off his home patches of Suffolk or (revisiting childhood haunts) the New Forest, too, Deakin is less engaging on forest landscapes - a walk through a Polish forest, for instance, comes alive far less than the English material, as it can't fail to do when set against landscapes that Deakin clearly knows on an inch-by-inch scale.

Be prepared, then, for this to sag at times in the middle: but buy it for the good bits, which are very very good and will fill you with an urge to get on your stomach and stare close-up at the familiar things in nature in a way that you haven't, perhaps, since childhood.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Favourite Book, 15 Jan. 2009
By 
Mathew Taylor (Shropshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees (Paperback)
After hearing a snippet on Radio 4, by Roger Deakin, I wanted to find out more about the man. This book came to my notice and I could not put it down. It is simply interesting, inspiring and somehow encouraging. His travels (even though I would not describe as a traditional travel book) help you to look at things around us, in the same way that Roger did. You cannot help but start to share the interests of the writer due to his enthusiasm and positive analysis.

I was disappointed to have finished this book and have bought other books referred to in Wildwood. This is now my 'favourite book' and I am considering in buying another copy to keep in good condition as my original copy is rapidly wearing out.

Sadly Roger will not be able to give us more of the same.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book of two halves, 11 April 2009
By 
Archie (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees (Paperback)
Would I recommend this book? Most definitely...
Did the whole book stand up to the expectations set in the first few chapters? Unfortunately not...
But I've still read the book three times; on each occasion gleaning as much of the richly descriptive language as possible.

Had the book ended after the first hundred or so pages I would still have happily paid the cover price, so I view the rest as a bit of a bonus.

My only disappointment was that it felt like the latter chapters were not as well crafted, but poor by Deakin standards is exceptional by many others.

The vivid & enchanting pictures painted by this book will ensure I read it time and time again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a walk in the woods, 4 Dec. 2010
By 
tallmanbaby (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees (Paperback)
Roger Deakin helped set up Common Ground the campaign group for local distinctiveness, and this book has the same quirky charm.

The book is attractively bound, in the letterpress style, with the letters dipped into the cover. It includes small sketches at the start of each chapter as these sorts of book often do.

This book does not have any plot, being about wood does not seem to place much restriction on the contents, general thoughts and writings about nature. It reminds me of Rings Of Saturn by WG Sebald, or The Unofficial Countryside by Richard Mabey or Sweet Thames Run Softly by Robert Giddings, which are some of my favourite books.

It is however a much more substantial book than any of these. Not only is it quite a long book but you really need to read it slowly in order to enjoy it. Like Christmas pudding there is too much packed into it, for you to manage too much at a sitting. I have been taking it down to the canteen at lunch and reading a few page each day, and it has lasted me for months. It was like being transported for a few minutes to the very best that nature has to offer, walks in wild woods, at times exotic, or arty, or deeply significant. I did start off reading as I would normally read a book and found it quite annoying, far too dense to hurry through. I can see where some of the negative comments here have come from.

I would have liked to know a bit more about the author, and the second last chapter on Tools and Workshops could do with a little light reordering, but otherwise an attractive, thoughtful and engaging book, that reminds us why we need nature in our lives.
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Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees
Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin (Paperback - 26 Jun. 2008)
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