This BBC Radio 4 'Book of the Week' is the story of a wood – both its natural daily life and its historical times. Cockshutt is a particular wood – three and half acres of mixed woodland in south west Herefordshire – but it stands as exemplar for all the small woods of England.
For four years John Lewis-Stempel managed the wood. He coppiced the trees and raised cows and pigs who roamed free there. This is the diary of the last year, by which time he had come to know it from the bottom of its beech roots to the tip of its oaks, and to know all the animals that lived there – the fox, the pheasants, the wood mice, the tawny owl – and where the best bluebells grew. For many fauna and flora, woods like Cockshutt are the last refuge. It proves a sanctuary for John too.
To read The Wood is to be amongst its trees as the seasons change, following an easy path until, suddenly the view is broken by a screen of leaves, or your foot catches on a root, or a bird startles overhead. Lyrical, informative, steeped in poetry and folklore, it is both very real and very magical.
John Lewis-Stempel is the author of The Wild Life, Meadowland, Where Poppies Blow, The Running Hare and The Secret Life of the Owl. He has twice won the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing, for Meadowland and Where Poppies Blow, and was shortlisted for The Running Hare, which was also shortlisted for the Independent Bookshop Week Book Award and the Richard Jefferies Society Award. He writes a column on nature and farming for Country Life and was the 2016 BSME Magazine Columnist of the Year. He lives on the borders of England and Wales with his wife and two children.