Britain's rich blend of cultures is evident in our interpretation of trees, and certainly in the way we use them. When we walk in the woods, we can almost hear the sage voices of druids, the battle cries of Norse warriors, the proclamations of Anglo-Saxon kings. With this in mind, it is fascinating to learn more about our trees: which species, for example, were fashioned into shields and why? Which twigs were carried as talismans, and which trees were to be avoided when setting out on a journey? Were elder trees growing around your house regarded as a good or a bad thing? And why should you never dig up a hawthorn? These are old stories whose origins are lost, but don't be fooled into thinking they are obsolete: many of our tree-related superstitions are still practised, quietly and carefully, perhaps even unconsciously.
In this beautiful illustrated guide to Britain's trees, nature writer Jo Woolf weaves together the fascinating natural history, folklore and customs connected with them. She explores the countless uses for trees throughout history, from food to construction to curious traditional remedies, and introduces the writers, artists and other famous figures inspired by their beauty. Also included are the stories behind some of Britain's oldest and most beloved individual trees.
Jo Woolf grew up in rural Shropshire, developing an appreciation for natural history that has stayed with her to the present day. She has always had a passion for writing, and the combination of these two interests led her to set up a blog, The Hazel Tree, in 2011. She writes about landscape and nature, with a particular focus on trees and woodland. Her book, Britain’s Trees: A Treasury of Traditions, Superstitions, Remedies and Literature, was published by The National Trust in March 2020.
In 2015, Jo was invited to become Writer in Residence at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. In this role she investigates the lives and experiences of explorers past and present, and contributes articles to the Society’s newsletter and blog. Her book, The Great Horizon was published in 2017 by Sandstone Press.
Jo lives in Argyll with her husband Colin, a wildlife artist.