Review of British Forests: The Forestry Commission 1919-2019
TTF’s Ellie Chapman reviews the Forestry Commission’s latest book, British Forests: The Forestry Commission 1919-2019, to celebrate their 100th birthday.
Even if you don’t know your Oaks from your Elms, this book will inspire you to kick on your wellies and go outside.
A mixture of history, facts and pure passion, British Forests delves into the various branches of the Forestry Commission, from forest management to pioneering the reintroduction of wild animals to our forests.
The book is full of lovely anecdotes from key characters from throughout their rich 100-year history, including foresters, artists and scientists.
First things first, have you seen the cover? They say not to judge a book by its cover, but the dark lino prints of trees against the white background make it striking and unique. Inside, the book is full of wonderful illustrations of trees and their seeds.
What struck me at first whilst reading this was the Forestry Commission’s major role in developing home-grown timber supply. I only really knew the Forestry Commission as leaders in forest management and wildlife conservation. I learnt a lot about the UK timber industry in this book and the vital role of the Commission for replanting our forests after World War 1. Whilst the Forestry Commission has adapted to a wide range of biological and environmental challenges, the Commission has remained true to its principles 100 years on.
I loved reading about the Women Timber Corps, certainly after being involved in the launch of Joanna Foat’s Lumberjills: Britain’s Forgotten Army book in March 2019. These women were key in expanding Britain’s timber production during World War Two when supply routes were cut off by war. They supplied wood that was used for the tracks during the D-Day landings and the construction of the de Havilland Mosquito.
The book also examines the Forestry Commissions’ past and current conservation, research and recreational projects programmes. Through the expansion of forest science, the Forestry Commission have developed strategies to overcome major threats to our forests, such as climate change and Dutch Elm Disease, as well as developing the use of recreational forests.
As an art enthusiast, I adored the chapter detailing the major art projects partnered with the Forestry Commission which helped launch the careers of many renowned artists, including Jamie McCollough. I’m planning on making a special trip up to the Yorkshire Dales to visit Rachel Whitehead’s Shy Sculpture Series to mark the Forestry Commission’s birthday.
I spent a lot of my childhood exploring, walking and climbing trees across the Mendip Hills but never appreciated the Forestry Commission’s work into managing these beautiful environments. This book widened my eyes to the diverse work of the Forestry Commission over the past 100 years. It takes a topic you may know little about and makes you passionate about it.
Jon Snow sums up the work of the Forestry Commission up perfectly: “The Forestry Commission ranks with the NHS and the Houses of Parliament as key to our British way of life.”
This book isn’t just for tree huggers or history boffins. This book is vital in understanding Britain’s natural history. With small, readable chunks and full of facts, I think this book will be discussed in history classes, at work and down the pub in years to come.