“He would come to the farm with his bulldozer every year. I still remember the smell of the harvest, the bullocks and bales in the background. He would bulldoze round a large oak tree, dig down eight or nine feet and leave this oak tree on one root. Then he’d push the oak tree over.”
“Although it seems criminal today to think of it, you were a young man, you were helping the country, you were going to grow more crops. And if a conservationist had come up to me and said: ‘Do you know that tree is 200 years old?’ I would have said, I don’t care.”
We are a nation that loves its ancient woods and trees. We prize our sturdy oaks, craggy pines, bluebells and primroses, badgers and dormice. We value the history and the heritage of places that have been woodland since before the Norman Conquest. But only a generation ago we were all set to wipe them out. It was said that in the space of just 30 years, nearly half our ancient woods were destroyed. How and why did this happen? And who prevented them from all being lost?
A Tale of Trees features the voices of those who cut down the woods and those who saved what was left. It is a story full of tragedy and heroism, ingenuity and blindness. And it will inspire the reader to go out and explore more ancient woods, and delight in our natural treasures.
With an endorsement from Helen McDonald, author of H is for Hawk
Derek Niemann is the editor of the RSPB’s children’s magazine and has written several books on nature and conservation for young readers. He lives in Bedfordshire with his family.