In this book Ben Law presents a range of practical and tested alternatives to conventional woodland management. Based on years of experience, Ben Law demonstrates ways to create healthy, biodiverse ecosystems which produce valuable, sustainable products and secure livelihoods. He stresses how important it is to return to a living relationship with the woodlands and how planning needs to be changed to a more permaculture orientated approach.
I recently finished reading Ben Law’s book ‘The Woodland Way‘ and thought I would post a little review.
Overall this is a great book for anyone who is looking to learn about woodland management. Ben Law has been living in the woods of England and managing his area since the early 90’s. He speaks from experience when explaining how to create healthy, bio-diverse environments that create secure livelihoods and yield a great variety of valuable products. He presents a range of practical and tested alternatives to conventional woodland management. This book has many excellent pictures and tables of data for referencing.
One thing about this book, which wasn’t so useful for me, was how specific to Britain a lot of the table information was. He mentions government grants, laws, and organizations, plus other specific things that don’t pertain to Canada. It only makes sense though, being that’s where he lives, but it just didn’t apply here. This book would be much more useful to someone from Britain who could use the specific information to their advantage. That said, there is still plenty of excellent general information in this book.
He starts off the book telling about his love for trees and how modern forest management has degraded our landscapes for short-term financial gain. So he became interested in woodland management to help save the trees and show a sustainable management system that is good for both people and the earth.
He goes on to describe woodland resources, ecosystems, and types of woodlands. Some good bits on transpiration and the holistic nature of a woodland. Here is a good quote:
“To separate a tree from the complex relationship of the whole woodland ecosystem is to misunderstand the holistic patterning of nature. Our natural woodlands follow this pattern and when we start to create monocultural plantations, the web of life is broken and we create environments lacking in species, life force and fertility.”
He goes through a bunch of woodland management techniques like coppice and shredding, plus some planting strategies like shelter belts and hedge rows.
There is a nice piece where he goes into the return of the forest dwellers and what that life is like. There is a cool chart showing all his activities, how they all relate to each other and how he makes a living from the woodland.
He talks about assessing existing woodlands through observation and reading of old records. He goes through a list of things that should be found out through observation when assessing the woodland. Then about reading the signs of the flora and insects to gain more information about a particular woodland.
“Assessment is a skilled and enjoyable activity. Building up a picture of a woodland, getting to understand it intimately takes time, realistically a lifetime.”
The next section is a large, very detailed part on establishing a new woodland in a permaculture way. Lots of good information here which he relates to a bunch of permaculture principles and how they are applied when creating a woodland. He also gives some examples of designed woodlands he worked on and how that went.
Next he talks in detail about the management of a woodland. From different cutting techniques, wildlife management, dealing with different woodland types, to regeneration techniques. This then goes on to talk about using the wood produced and how to extract it with minimal damage to the ecosystem. He gives examples of folks living in the woods, what they are doing and different income streams that can be generated other than just the major timbre.
In the next section he talks in detail about food from the woodland. This section is complete with many tables of detailed information about different layers of food producing plants in the woods. This is particularly good for those in Britain. Many of the species listed here don’t apply to the harsh Canadian climate. The general information is great though. Lots of sources of food to think about in a woodland.
He ends the book with a nice poetic piece about his relationship with the woodland. Here’s a little excerpt.
“I remove my boots and caress the earth with my feet, the soil is cooler now, the woodcock flies over with his familiar ‘rurrp’. I build the fire up and glance across to the ancient oak, soothing words enter my head, ‘I know this place, I belong’ “.
The back of this book is packed with good reference material like tables of tree species and their planting conditions, bibliography, and other useful information pertaining mostly to Britain.
All in all, go check this book out from the library if you are interested in woodland management and if you live in Britain, go buy this book. Definitely a good read.
I read this book a while ago. The authoe Ben Law is one of the kind. A great man that gently shares his life experiences writing and on video. This is a book taht was first published in 2001, has it expired its strength? no absolutely not. Its still a great read. Yes its based on british climate, on its type of woodlands, but it has in inspiring touch that can cross oceans, and seas.
I must say knowing Ben Law took his PDC with Patrick Whitefield gives me a big push towards fondness, Yes, I am a passionate reader that finds all sorts of ties in books and authors, and I see in the Ben's way of writing and sharing his experinces a path that takes me from Patrick to Ben.
The book starts by explainig the differences we can observe in british woodlands. But if we take these observation tools to our own landscapes it is actually a general rule we can get from the first pages of the book. There is a tradition in woodland management in the UK very old. Ben and others have worked a lot in total silence for years to rebuild that legacy with tradition, one has to think about the fact Ben started working years ago producing tradition charcoal, how many still use that ancient practice today?
Just to explain something about tradition al charcoal. One may think its about cutting down a whole woodland and producing charcoal, that is probably the idea of an industrialised view, but Ben's way is totally different. Producing charcoal in a traditional way is a sustainable practice that is intimately connected to woodland management.
Ben takes us through a journey that starts with establishing a new woodland, managing it and living in it, with it. He speaks from experience and shows how he has built an entire life in connection with the woodland where he live from the past thirty years.
There are many interesting informations on what can be seen as a yield in a managed woodland.
Fron tree to finished product is the best chapter I loved it, Ben is not just a woodland management expert he has great experience as a round timber frame builder, famous his video on Grand designs of how he built his house, and furniture builder. There are so many different uses one can think of by the yields we can obtain from a woodland and Ben shows them all. Ben speaks briefly of hedgelaying and opened a world for me on that specific practice.
Why did I give the book 7.8? well I read books looking at all sorts of apsects, and one thing that got me annoyed a bit, just a 0.2 in all, was the editing errors in the text. there are some points where paragraphs are repeated, and that is annoying. No big deal but I think a bit more attention could have helped the reader not get stuck in some parts of the book. It may be my editions problem don't know.
Ben has written other books that probably one day I'll read he is an inspiring author.
The book is a great read and I think should be read by anyone that has interest in woodlands, having them or wanting to establish them. I think Ben Law has had the great capacity to tickle our memories on how traditionally in all Europe we used to manage woodlands. I've had the privilege to walk a lot around alpine regions in youth and one could still see how once those woodlands were managed. There was still a faint trace, path that could be followed of what our connection had been with nature. Ben takes us back to those memories and has done a great lot to share his life time experience, he's built a growing knowledge that is there as a yield for all. One just has to gather it.