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on 29 January 2008
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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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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on 26 June 2007
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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on 28 May 2009
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 March 2008
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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on 15 January 2009
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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on 10 January 2009
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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on 23 August 2007
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 the middle and not blinked. Oh, for the benefit of hindsight.
In this middle part, Deakin wanders around central Europe, adding nothing to what has gone before, making no impression on what is to follow...Look, its worth reading, after Deakin's sad death last year I recommend people get hold of what they can, but don't expect the masterpiece everyone thinks it is.

Jay Griffith's 'Wild', now thats much better...
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This is one of those books you can just dip in and out of every time you're feeling a little stressed with urban life. Each chapter is devoted to a different aspect of the world of wood and trees. Deakin, a true English eccentric, owned woodlands in Suffolk and loved and nurtured them like his children.

In this book he travels the world from the new forests of Hampshire to the Australian outback in search of new woodland experiences and other people as obsessed by wood as he is. The pace is gentle, his love of nature and his ability to write with fluid beauty about it is a joy and even though I am a townie through and through I found myself longing to wander through the woods with him.

Sadly, this is never to be, so the book is as close as I'm ever likely to get. His atmospheric and loving prose is no poor second.
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on 11 April 2009
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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