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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, The Ash and the Beech, 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 title Beechcombings, this updated edition of The Ash and the Beech includes a new foreword and afterword by the author.
Richard Mabey is the father figure of modern nature writing in the UK. Since 1972 he has written some 40 influential books, including the prize-winning Nature Cure, Gilbert White: a Biography, and Flora Britannica. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Vice-President of the Open Spaces Society. He spent the first half of his life amongst the Chiltern beechwoods, and now lives in Norfolk in a house surrounded by ash trees.
"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"