Deeper Into the Wood by Ruth Pavey – a celebration of a piece of woodland in Britain

Deeper Into the Wood by Ruth Pavey

Four acres of woodland is not a huge estate, but in this book, a sequel to “A Wood of One’s Own”, Ruth Pavey shares her search for the background of the land through the people who may once have owned it, and the creatures and plants that are now present. This is a carefully and seriously written book which is divided into four sections roughly divided into seasons. It recalls in a flowing style the visits she pays to the wood, the work she and others do to preserve some trees and plants, and consider what is the best to do for the future in terms of planting. She also recalls the visitors, experts, that she asks to come to the site to investigate the flora and fauna, as well as visits she makes to museums and archives to gather more information. She is saddened by the disappearance of rabbits and some other creatures from the woodland, and keen to preserve trees that are of a great age. 

There is a certain amount of guilt expressed throughout the book; Pavey worries about planting non native trees, but explains how difficult it is to assess what varieties were truly to be found in Britain and when. This is a comprehensive book of Pavey’s thoughts on her wood. It is written to celebrate and commemorate Pavey’s ownership of the wood, her concerns about its present and future, and her determination to do the right thing. It relates the problems of the wood to wider climate change issues as well as the way the various groups of animals, birds and insects are affected. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and view this carefully written book.

The wood in question is originally described as “a near -impenetrable piece of woody scrub and derelict orchard” in the Introduction.This book comes after the celebration of the first fifteen years covered in the first book. This book begins with a section called “From New Year to the Vernal Equinox”, and various journeys from London to the wood. Another issue emerges in this section which will reappear in the book; the boundaries of the property need to be established and maintained. There is the threat of development which may not be directly on the site but the integrity of the woodland will be compromised, as well as the threat of chemical and other incursions into the area.  Pavey tries hard to establish and maintain good relationships with those around her, partly to get the benefit of their knowledge and advice in the running of the wood. The book goes through visits from plant experts and a man who can identify moths. Pavey seeks help to establish the involvement of a particular family with the property, trying to construct a family history from parish records. She does not only concern herself with such physical tasks as cutting down brambles, she also visits daffodil cultivators and those who know about the trees she has either got growing or would like to include on her land. She borrows sheep from a friend in order to cut the grass and other vegetation naturally, but keeping sheep for even a short time comes with responsibility. 

This is a serious book which is written as a look at a particular patch of ground in England, the problems and possibilities it presents, and the responsibility of maintaining a patch of land for future generations. Pavey is aware that she must attract the interest of children, perhaps family members, and others, who can continue her interest in a small but important plot of land. It also contains appendices, notes and a bibliography for those interested. Through this book she is trying to point out that the wood is more than just ancient trees and plants, but also the whole cycle of life in the area. I recommend this book to those interested in the natural world, the history of place, and the future of woodland and other habitats in Britain from a personal perspective.