The subject of Irish native woodlands has come up on the podcast more than once. For instance, I devoted an entire episode to this subject in 2018. Being born and raised in a country with much more tree cover than Ireland, broadleaf woodlands are one of the features of the natural landscape that I miss the most.
Early this year, after visiting a few local patches of remaining native woods I decided to read and learn more about Irish woodlands. I searched the Internet and came across a book by Richard Nairn titled “Wildwoods: The Magic of Ireland’s Native Woodlands”. I approached it with a little apprehension, as the word “magic” in the title made me think that it might be a little over-romanticised at the expense of hard scientific facts. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded.
The book is cleverly structured around the four seasons: winter, spring, summer and autumn. It’s based on the author’s experience of managing his own patch of native woodland. Nairn recounts the journey of learning about his woodland and his efforts to manage, restore and safeguard its future. He also takes the reader on his journeys to other woodlands where he met with experts to learn more about woodland history and ecology.
In the book, you will not only find solid information about tree species, plants and their ecology but also about insects, birds and other animals like badgers and squirrels. The author also doesn’t shy away from discussing social issues related to nature conservation and management such as badger cull. And as if that wasn’t enough, the book also contains an overview of Irish woodland history which is intriguingly intertwined with the history of the Irish state.
Overall, the book turned out to be a very engaging read. It’s packed with a lot of interesting and useful information. I’m definitely putting it on my list of recommended reads. And as always, I encourage you to buy it using the links below. That way you will not only get yourself a great book but also support my work.
Wildwoods is a fascinating account of his journey over a typical year. Along the way, he uncovers the ancient roles of trees in Irish life, he examines lost skills such as coppicing and he explores new uses of woodlands for forest schools, foraging and rewilding. Ultimately, Wildwoods inspires all of us to pay attention to what nature can teach us.
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