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The Wood: The Life & Times of Cockshutt Wood

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  502 ratings  ·  77 reviews

'Indisputably, one of the best nature-writers of his generation' (Country Life)
BBC Radio 4 'Book of the Week'

This is the story of a wood - both its natural daily life and its historical times. Cockshutt is a particular wood - three and half acres of mixed woodland in south west Herefordshire - but it stands as exemplar for all the small woods of England.

For four years J

Kindle Edition, 299 pages
Published March 8th 2018 by Transworld Digital
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The Wood: The Life & Times of Cockshutt Wood is very good, but parts do not quite fit ME ! This explains why I give it three rather than four stars. I will explain.

The writing varies from lines of lyrical beauty to those presenting interesting and informative content. The text is in diary format starting in December and ending in November the following year. It offers a view of English countryside from someone who works the land, from someone who knows it and loves it. The book is in this res
Until recently woodlands were essential to our survival, we used them for food, fuel and livelihoods. Even though very few make their living from them now, they are places that hold a special place in the hearts of people in the UK, as the government found out when they tried to sell off the Forestry Commission, a decision that was quickly reversed given the outcry. Just taking a walk through a wood helps nature seep back into your soul and are a sanctuary from the madness of modern life.

Lewis-Stempel has become one of the foremost nature writers in the UK. His Meadowland is stellar, but I’ve been disappointed by a few of his most recent books. This is a fragmentary diary of a year in the Shropshire wood for which he used to act as caretaker. It’s something like an old-fashioned commonplace book that incorporates history, culture, folklore, folk wisdom, and long poems and quotations from other writers, in addition to personal observations and events. There are even recipes! ...more
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought the trees and birds belonged to me. But now I realise that I belonged to them.

The Wood is a diary of Cockshutt Wood, just over 3 acres of mixed woodland in Herefordshire. Lewis-Stempel managed the woodland for 4 years and the book is really a love letter to that time and place.

Lewis-Stempel is a truly wonderful writer. I was going to call him a nature writer, but that's a term he baulks at. In his words he's a countryside writer -

"I give the view of the countryside from someone who wo
Book 175: some times you read a book by an author whose work you previously enjoyed and you realise that you would not like the person. This is a diary of a year tending a wood in Herefordshire. I learned a lot of new things. Some very interesting stuff, but it is the personal elements that left me reeling a bit at times. I guess it is unfair of me to judge him, who lives in nature, on how he relates to it, but I - the suburban dweller - did, instinctively. It is a good, lyrical book, although o ...more
Beth Bonini
4.5 stars

This is a book you can read again and again - not only because the writing is beautiful, but also because it contains far too much information to take in on one reading, especially if your knowledge about the countryside is on the sketchy side.

It’s a diary of John Lewis-Stempel’s last year managing the Cockshutt Wood, in a remote hilly bit of Herefordshire, but it’s also rather like an almanac, albeit a highly personalised one. The book is made up mostly of the author’s observations of
From BBC radio 4 - Book of the week:
Over twelve months, this is the story of Cockshutt Wood in Shropshire, representative of all the small woods in our landscape and the sanctuary they provide.

From January through to December, John Lewis-Stempel records the passage of the seasons in exquisite prose, as the cuckoo flits through the green shade in the silence and the wind of winter. He explores from the roots of the oak to its tips, under the black, spicy leaf mould of the woodland floor and up in
I have no idea what anyone would see in this book. I must admit, I only skimmed the second half, because I just couldn't take it anymore. The beautiful cover is the only positive thing I can find about it, and even that, after reading is tainted by his romanticisation of farming. Granted, if I guy who kills pigs for a living calls himself their quasi father, that just makes me feel queasy, but at least, in these short passages, this book evoked any kind of feeling even if it was annoyance and an ...more
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A biologist, Edward O Wilson, is famed for his studies of ants around the world and the wider implications of his research, not all of which I actually agree with. In his autobiography, he claims that he could have produced research of equivalent value and complexity without leaving his own back garden. This book strikes me as evidence that he was right. It is nicely written but a slow read for me, because so many seemingly simple terms describing the natural world were strange to me. I therefor ...more
The standard of nature writing over recent years has just got better and better, we are so fortunate to have so many great nature writers in the UK and twice winner of the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing. (2015 & 2017) John Lewis-Stempel returns with his best book to date. The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood is an intimate account of John’s last year managing this three and half acres of mixed woodland in Herefordshire.

Lewis-Stempel’s latest has been written in a diary format and
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature-books
🌿 Lewis-Stempel has a simpel yet beautiful way of describing his life in Cockshutt wood. While Reading the book I felt like I was there, surrounded by the trees and animals that inhabit the wood. And I loved the added recipes with the food that grows there, As well as the interwoven myths and poetry about nature. 🌿
Apr 14, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
pardon me but my eyes are involuntarily watering at the beauty of this cover
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read one of John's earlier books 'Meadowland' a few years ago and just loved it. Whilst reading it I discovered we shared a favourite (now sadly) little known author Denys Watkins-Pitchford aka 'B.B' whom I read as a child. He was from Lamport, a village I grew up just two miles away from. After reading that book I had a brief chat with John on Twitter about B.B.

So it was a great delight to stumble upon his latest book 'The Wood' in Waterstones on Saturday. I have devoured the book all over E
Fiona Stocker
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an extraordinary book by an extraordinary man. Woodsman ship is an age old art now and there would not be many left with these skills and this knowledge. And he has the sensitive soul and writerly mind to record it. We're lucky.

It's written as a diary and so a little meandering and lacking in drive somehow and you have to forgive it that. I'd like to see something g by him with more structure. I hear his books on the hare and the oak raved about so I'll be trying those.
Sophie (RedheadReading)
A nice piece of nature writing, but not my favourite of Stempel's work. I think because it is sort of a collection of diary entries over the passing of the year it occaisionally felt a little fragmentary to me, in a way that doesn't bother me so much when done in shorter books like his The Secret Life Of... series. That said, still an enjoyable and super speedy read! ...more
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely portrait of a year in 'nature' and a person's place in this particular landscape (landscape? environment? whatever). Raises questions of management, farming, biodiversity with a light, genial style, following tangents, throwing out snippets of information along the way. ...more
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle, own, audible
Superb, just like Meadowland, a year in the life of Cockshutt Wood. Very interesting and being a partial country bumpkin very relatable.

Thoroughly enjoyed both books I have read by the author and look forward to devouring more.
Fern Adams
This book follows changes in a wood over one year going through the weather, trees, plants and wildlife month by month. Filled with anecdotes, recipes, folklore and history it’s amazing how much information Lewis-Stempel squeezes into each page. Very interesting and well written.
I want to go and live in nature
George Foord
Jan 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More of a history of trees and animals. I found it very interesting and learnt a lot
Courtney Ayling
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Though a little difficult to get into to begin with, perseverance is rewarded! If you love English woodlands as much as I do, you’ll enjoy the poetic descriptions of native flora and fauna within these diary entries. Learning about the highs/lows of woodland management responsibility was also very enlightening, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in a similar field.
Harsha Priolkar
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
This is probably my first non-fiction book of the year. I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction and this one was largely a cover buy, although the fact that it had to do with a British Wood made it intriguing.

The book is basically John Lewis-Stempel’s diary, that he kept for the last year that he was living and managing Cockshutt Wood, in Herefordshire. I didn’t realise places like Cockshutt needed managing before I read this book! His ‘management’ of the Wood - coppicing trees, tree-haying, culling b
Nathalie (keepreadingbooks)
"Once more with meaning: in the health of woods lies our own health."

I have finished my first read of the year. Despite being a relatively short and easy read, I took 10 days to finish it. This is not a bad thing – I have found that I generally take longer to read nature books. I don’t gobble them up in a few days, rather I slow down and savour them, ease into the rhythm of nature in them (if they are well-written, of course). Nature is not fast-moving, it is slow and steady, change will come w
Jules B
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book, from start to finish. I actually started it last year, and somewhere in between buying my first house, losing our beautiful dog Rosie and adopting our new handful Merlin, reading just went by the wayside. Then lockdown hit and there was just time, and lots of it, so I picked it up again and immediately wondered why I ever put it down.

A mix of beautiful prose, history, recipes, poems, and nature facts, but above all, about life and death in Cockshutt Wood, this is a
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-top-ten
John Lewis-Stempel writes the most gorgeous prose. The Wood is the diary of a year in the life of Cockshutt Wood - the final year that he is the custodian of this small patch of woodland. It starts in December at the beginning of winter. Some entries are brief such as the entry for May 2nd: "There is a new sound in the wood, that of rain on full-fledged leaves; it is the shield-beating of Saxon warriors". Others are longer; as on the 14th April where he ruminates on ramsons, culminating in a rec ...more
Ivan Monckton
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another book from the prolific Lewis-Stempel, this time a diary of his activities in a 4a wood he leased in Eastern Herefordshire from November to November. At times it reads like an exact transcription of his field notes, which cam make it a little ‘bitty’, and the occasional lapse into cookbook is odd, but this man is a very gifted writer with great insight and observational skills. The long-sighted work he did in the wood, including the planting of acorns just before he gave up the lease, is ...more
Matt Whittingham
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature
Since I discovered John Lewis-Stempel, with "The Running Hare", he's become one of my favourite authors. This is partly because I was born in Herefordshire and grew up in the Dorset countryside. Now I reside the mega-metropolis of Singapore, these books are a kind of escapism, taking me back to the English countryside, the quiet beauty of it all, the wonder of the seasons and the assortment of flora and fauna.

While I don't think this is quite as good as "The Running Hare", perhaps because the d
Allie B
Oct 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A fascinating and charming little book. I learnt so much about trees (there is so much to learn about their life cycles and 'behaviour'!), birds and the many other creatures that live in Cockshutt Wood. The diary format means that it's almost a stream of consciousness style so that we feel very close to the daily happenings in the wood. There are also many poems (quite a few from the Romantic poets), woodland-inspired recipes and extracts from nature writers interspersed throughout, which all he ...more
Jun 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyable, light read. Lewis-Stempel paints a beautiful picture of a year in the life of Wood. Dating back many centuries, I loved the descriptions of the fauna and flora. He often humorously describes his conversations with his domesticated animals and the wildland animals, like the tawny owl. He also weaves in his deep admiration of the many types of plants and animals, including some of their uses with recipes or some of the traditions revolving around them. The book is really a collec ...more
Miko Mayer
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’t generally read nature books, but this was on sale on audible and after reading the reviews, I thought I’d give it a go. I’m so glad I did. Lewis-Stempel’s enthusiasm and love for the woods, and seemingly nature in general, is infectious and the breadth of knowledge, conveyed in such an easy and entertaining way, was incredible. Listening to this, narrated by a pitch perfect Leighton Pugh, reminded me of the way I felt as a child when I was read a favourite bedtime story. It was enchantin ...more
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