The magic and mystery of the woods and trees are embedded in our culture, from ancient folklore to modern literature. They offer us refuge, a place to play and a place to think. They are the generous providers of fuel, timber, energy and life. They let us dream of other ways of living. Yet we now face a future where taking a walk in the woods is consigned to the tales we tell our children. Threatened by development, neglect, climate chaos and ignorance, they are emptier – of flora and fauna, but also of people – than they have ever been.
Immersing himself in the beauty of Britain's woodlands and the art and writing they have inspired, Peter Fiennes explores our long relationship with the woods and the sad and violent story of how so many have been lost. Just as we need them, our woods need us too. But who, if anyone, is looking out for them?
Peter Fiennes is the author of To War with God, a moving account of his grandfather's service in the First World War. As a publisher for Time Out, he published numerous books about Britain's countryside and seaside. He lives in Wandsworth, London, where he is the publisher of Town magazine.
"A wonderful wander into the woods that explores our deep-rooted connections – cultural, historical and personal – with the trees."
– Rob Cowen, author of Common Ground
"Passionate and thoughtful in exactly the way the best nature writing should be [...] the woodlands of Britain have found their perfect advocate."
– Hugh Thomson, author of The Green Road into the Trees
"A tender hymn to the trees, a manifesto for a woodland society, a contemporary gazette of ideas and attitudes radiating into the future like annual rings from the original pith [...] In this lyrical, informative, unashamedly arboreal propaganda, one man's walk in the woods can inspire a generation."
– Paul Evans, author of Field Notes from the Edge
"Oak and Ash and Thorn is a lament. A lament for the trees and forests we have lost since the first axe glistened and the first torch flared. The destruction frequently came from plain necessity, but also, to our shame, from greed, stupidity and, as Fiennes suggests, fear. Despite the inventory of tragedy in his book, Fiennes is the best of guides, gently, eloquently and with a fierce humour telling a sad story – relating chapters of fascinating detail to brighten his tale and quoting the poets as he goes. Despite the calamity that our relationship with trees has become, this is not a depressing book. Oak and Ash and Thorn may be a lament, but Fiennes invigorates and arms us with the knowledge to ensure that it will not become a requiem."
– John Wright, author of A Natural History of the Hedgerow
"Peter Fiennes really can see the wood for the trees – he blends mythology, natural history and a sense of righteous anger to produce a paean of praise to our ancient woodlands and modern forests, and the life support system they provide."
– Stephen Moss, author of Wild Kingdom: Bringing Back Britain's Wildlife