Walks In The Wild by Peter Wohlleben and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp (Translator)
|Walks In The Wild by Peter Wohlleben and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp (Translator)|
|Category: Animals and Wildlife|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: Interesting rather than engaging, this how-to guide to enjoying woodland will never-the-less earn its bookshelf space.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 272||Date: July 2019|
|External links: Author's website|
An instruction manual for the forest is how Wohlleben's publisher described the idea for this book, and that's basically what it is – although right at the end the author says that it is not intended to be a reference book, but an appetiser.
Personally, I think it works better as the former rather than the latter. If you're not already inclined to go for a walk in the woods, I'm not sure that this would entice you out there. If anything, it might have exactly the opposite effect. On the other hand, if you're already a woodland wanderer – even (or maybe especially) if, like me, a reluctant one – then this could be the book for you. It's full of wonderful little snippets that make you think: about trees and the animals that live among them, about forestry and woodland management, about politics and conservation, about how we as humans interact with nature and how we can maybe get our children to do a bit better than we did.
It's an educative little thing. I don't mean that derogatively. It is a very simple book of only about 250 pages in the core text. It's a collection of 28 essays on themes such as what you'll find in the forest, what the animals make of us, what to eat (or not), the dress code for woodland wandering, commercial logging, conservation, what to do in a thunder storm – or rain without thunder…basically, it is a reference book, on what's happening in Germany's woods and how you can get out there and enjoy them, despite it all.
Yes, Germany. A lot of what Wohlleben has to say about trees will be true wherever those trees grow. I suspect that a lot of what he has to say about commercial logging is equally true wherever man cuts those trees down. But his day-job is as a forester in the southern German stare of Rheinland-Pfalz, so a lot of the specifics on what you can and can't do in a wood, and the politics that lurk in the depths of the forest, is very much as seen from home ground.
He makes it very clear that this is the case, and occasionally adds differentiating references to other countries, but by and large stays with what he knows. It's none the worse for that. Go do your own research on your own patch is after all one of the unspoken messages that I took away. A kind of this is what it's like here, how is it where you live?
That being so: why would you want to read it if you're not a woodland wanderer and/or don't have Germany on your immediate travel agenda?
Because it's crammed full of stuff that you might not know. For instance: did you know…
…that trees curl up to sleep; or
…that the reason the dawn chorus might be ridiculously early is because you're in a centralised time zone out of synch with the sun; or
…that 'dazzle camouflage' works for hunters just as well as it does for battleships; or
…why the beech is called the mother of the forest; or
…that although virtually all German woodland is privately owned, you have the right to roam through it, and pick the fruits of it (so long as you take no more than one meal's worth at a time); or
…why winning the battle against rabies might not have been in our long-term interest?
I could go on, but there are too many to mention, and I need to leave you with unexpected morsels to discover for yourself – or it would be out of keeping with woodland wandering.
This isn't a beautiful book. Whether it lost anything in translation or not I cannot say, but I suspect not. Wohlleben comes across as a practical kind of chap. Although I can imagine him getting excited when taking his 'group tours', whether survival experiences, or primary school children, or young people with challenging behaviour, his passion for woodland is really of the quiet smouldering kind, rather than the raging fire – and it doesn't shine out of this book. His strongest response to any of the sins against his beloved woodland is to be annoyed.
I might have liked a stronger response, a more impassioned plea, but I get the idea that although he doesn't like seeing meadow species being protected at the expense of woodland, and he seems to advocate a hands-off approach to conservation, I fear he knows where that would lead us.
It is already too late. Whether we manage to conserve as much as we can, even if that means freezing in time (this time) or seek to re-wild back to a different moment in time (pick your era) or whether we simply let nature take its course – it's simply a matter of preference, there will be winners and losers either way. Until humanity has lost, permanently, we will continue to interfere.
On the other hand he makes the point that the forests can wait. Trees count generations in hundreds of years.
An interesting book rather than an engaging one, but it's earned its place on my shelves. I will want to refer back to it.
If you enjoy this one, British readers might also enjoy something closer to home with A Tale of Trees: The Battle to save Britain's Ancient Woodland by Derek Niemann. For more on forestry we can recommend Forestry Flavours of the Month: The Changing Face of World Forestry by Alastair Fraser.
You can read more book reviews or buy Walks In The Wild by Peter Wohlleben and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp (Translator) at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Walks In The Wild by Peter Wohlleben and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp (Translator) at Amazon.com.
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