The Woodland Way is one of those rare books that bridges the gap between the theory of conservation and its practice, and does it well. It sets out author Ben Law’s thesis and original vision for sustainable woodland management in Britain. It is an inspiring book in its practicality and “do-ability”.
(NOTE: WOODLAND WANTED – PREFERABLY IN UK – CARPENTER WANTS 2 ACRES TO TURN INTO SUSTAINABLE HIDE-OUT. WRITE TO JULIENNE@OFF-GRID.NET)
The author, writes from the heart and has a very deep commitment to practical sustainability. In fact he lives in his own woodlands, ‘Prickly Nut Wood’ in Lodsworth, UK and has been given planning permission for a permanent home there. There are plenty of excellent photographs adding vision to his text. He covers every conceivable issue relating to wood, woodlands and woodland management. Some of his ideas are radical alternatives to conventional woodland management and his aim is to create bio-diversity, a healthy environment, added value products and food, a livelihood for woodland workers and farmers and benefits for the local community. His vision is to encourage such woodlands all over Britain.
Ben taught a permaculture design course and many students have him to thank for theire eyes to the whole PC design process. One can see this process underlying Ben’s approach to woodlands in general and to his own land throughout this book. Reading it has opened many eyes to a new, much more holistic way of using and living in and with woodlands in Britain. The range of sustainable, income-generating ways that Ben uses his own woodland is truly astonishing (just look at the amazing “Analysis of Ben Law’s Livelihood” in the centre of the book!), let alone what he suggests as options for woodlands in general.
The Woodland Way is packed with detail. For many areas this detail is more than adequate to use the book as an instructional guide. For other aspects of woodland management, Ben has provided an overview that starts the reader on a path needing further information. Here the extensive and excellent appendices come into their own. They are packed with extra information, further references and contact details for many woodland related organisations. They enhance its value greatly and turn it from a very readable book into a hugely usable reference as well. This aspect of the book in particular is very similar in style to its sister publication Plants for a Future. I am sure that my copy of the Woodland Way will become as dog-eared as Plants for a Future has become – the best review that any author could wish for!
For American readers there is a southern English bias in its plant information and recommendations. Ben does warn that some of the plants that he lists may not thrive everywhere in Britain, never mind the US. But you can fill in such info from your own local observations so don’t let that put you off. If you want to learn about truly living a Permaculture lifestyle as well as working woodlands.