Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, £30.00
Review Spencer Gavin Smith
This is a big book in more ways than one: a thick tome, at 400 pages, and one that addresses what is synonymous with England and the English way of life – Quercus robur, the English oak tree. Drawing together information from a wide range of sources, and presenting it in an intelligible way, the correlation between medieval parks, forests, and chases, and the survival of an impressive number of ‘ancient’ trees is illustrated and explained.
Although the primary focus is on England, it also explores the European dimension. Trees from as far afield as Ireland, Turkey, Norway, and Spain are listed and contextualised. The photographs are well chosen, capturing the sheer scale of these trees and the fine detail of the trunks and leaves. The comprehensive bibliography and appendices are also useful.
Grid references for the locations of the parks and chases in England would have been a helpful inclusion, but that is a small quibble for a book that should be part of the library of anyone with an interest in the historic landscape.
This review was published in CA 332.