Tales from the Wild Wood was a six-part series about British woodlands broadcast on BBC4 in autumn 2012. Presented by writer and wannabe woodsman Rob Penn, the series explored the great British love affair with trees.
In 2011, Rob took over the management of part of Strawberry Cottage Wood, an area of abandoned broadleaf woodland at the entrance to the Llanthony Valley, in the beautiful Black Mountains, south Wales. Through managing the wood, the series explored the issues affecting British woodlands today: is man good for woods? Can woodlands pay? How can we value them in non-economic ways? Will our woods survive into the future?
Each episode looked at the day to day management of a woodland – keeping pigs, trapping squirrels, coppicing, horse logging, the economics of our native timber industry, planting trees, future proofing woods, making and selling charcoal, improving biodiversity and encouraging public access. Using fascinating archive, the series also examined our historical relationship with woodlands, recalling the time when the woods employed thousands of people and provided the backbone of rural industries, industries that sustained the countryside over centuries.
Rob was an amateur when he took over Strawberry Cottage Wood. To help him, he called upon a delightful army of expert woodsmen and eccentric foresters – Wyndham Morgan helped Rob make the wood safe, Iliff Simey explained the virtues of ‘natural forest practice’, Pablo Sanchez helped fell the big ash trees, Kate Morgan brought an 850-kilo Ardennes horse in to extract timber and Pooran Desai advised on the nuances of making and selling British charcoal.
To understand some of the issues affecting our woodlands, Rob periodically left Strawberry Cottage Wood and journeyed round Britain, to Westonbirt to see a successful coppice restoration project, to Carmarthenshire to scrutinize a new type of wood fuel, to Witney Sawmills and even to a cricket stadium, to see ash stumps from his wood used in an international match.
The British people have an innate affinity with trees: they touch us deeply in ways we don’t completely understand. Our woodlands are the least valued, sustainable resource we have left – yet there are over a million acres of unmanaged or under managed woodlands in Britain. Tales from the Wild Wood is a gentle call to arms – to manage more of our woods, and manage them better. Above all, it is a celebration of a fundamental and very beautiful part of the British landscape.
You can view clips from the series on the BBC4 website.
Tales from the Wild Wood was directed and produced by Will Lorimer for Indus Films (The Fisherman’s Apprentice with Monty Halls, Arctic with Bruce Parry, Amazon).
I’m afraid dvds of Tales from the Wild Wood are not available on a commercial basis. However, if you’re keen to get hold of copies the lovely people at Indus Films will organise it, please contact Mel Guinee at Indus Films: Melanie.Guinee@indusfilms.com. The cost for the dvds, packaging and postage is £29.99.
Ride of my Life: the Story of the Bicycle, based on the book It’s All About the Bike and presented by Robert Penn, was broadcast on BBC4, and subsequently on BBC2.
An interview on BBC World GMT on 3 August, 2010 – click here