TALES FROM THE WILDWOOD
Tales from the Wild Wood is a new six-part series about British woodlands broadcast on BBC4 this autumn. Presented by writer and wannabe woodsman Rob Penn, the series explores the great British love affair with trees.
A year ago, Rob took over the management of Strawberry Cottage Wood, 50 acres of abandoned broadleaf woodland at the entrance to the Llanthony Valley, in the beautiful Black Mountains, south east Wales.
Through managing the wood, the series explores 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 looks 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 examines 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 OBE 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 Whitney
Sawmill 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 we have abandoned over 500,000 acres of them. 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.
Tales from the Wild Wood is directed and produced by Will Lorimer for Indus Films (The Fisherman’s Apprentice with Monty Halls, Arctic with Bruce Parry, Amazon).