The Reading List

Worth a Read?

Here you will find a collection of books read and recommended by the Cumbria Woodlands team. Scroll down for a selection of tree, woodland and forestry reading, some conventional, and some less so...


Oliver Rackham

This book is a significant undertaking, but if you're able to face it, the rewards are great! The late Oliver Rackham was a huge champion of woodlands, and one of the UK's best-known naturalists. I love to understand big picture processes and interactions, and this book helped me to place our trees and woodlands in a context of geography, geology, climate, human history and heritage. He uses historical maps, surveys, legal documents, archaeology, art (even observations of wood in buildings and ships), to evidence our woodlands' history. It's a fascinating and engaging (though dense!) read... and it's a book I will be reading again.

The Tree Dispensary, The Uses, History, and Herbalism of Native European Trees

Christina Stapley

This is an immensely readable book (especially for a reference book!), structured by season of use. It includes photos, folklore and historical recipes taken from their original source, references to archaeological finds, and modern herbalist references. As a further means to value Europe's trees and woodlands, and understand their heritage, I read this cover to cover (though I can't claim to have retained all the information!). Some of the history is bound to provide you with, "Aha!", moments, from observations of how you've noticed your livestock browse on trees and shrubs, your observations of how different regions in Europe use and values their trees and shrubs, to where different trees grow in our landscape and what landscape features they're associated with. From ash to willow, add to your knowledge and understanding of cultivation, cookery, foraging, crafts, history, botany, medicinal use and mythology!

The Hidden Life of Trees

Peter Wohlleben

Peter has written an accessible, intriguing and fun book, a book that will almost definitely make the woodland manager, forestry reader (or lay enthusiast) feel differently about trees. His anthropomorphism of these organisms, their communities and their communication isn't everyone's understanding of course...and is impossible to prove (or disprove!). However, it's definitely an engaging book, and it's not without real examples and references (though many are in German). I enjoyed his promotion of an enquiring, open-minded approach to management, based both on observation and on really getting to know a woodland. See what you think!

The Secret Life of Trees, How They Live and Why They Matter

Colin Tudge

This book is an enthusiastic celebration of all the world's trees. It's towards the academic end of the reading spectrum (Latin names are involved!) but the writer doesn't assume much previous knowledge (there's an extensive glossary). Tudge has written with humour and humility, recognising both the limits of his own understanding and the reader's potential lack of enthusiasm for technical detail! As well as the science behind trees' inner workings, their evolution and geological-timeframe travels around the globe, he's included plenty of stories on heritage, lore, usefulness and threats. My favourite chapter was all about the mind-boggling inter-depending relationship between figs and wasps (it's epic!). And the reminder that there's at least as much cooperation in nature as competition - the attributed quote of, "survival of the fittest", referencing the most well-adapted, not the strongest.

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