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2 minutes reading

Woods kindle new ways of being and urge our minds differently

Woods kindle new ways of being and urge our minds differently Woods kindle new ways of being and urge our minds differently
Source: Cressida Campbell via Tumblr
The Wild Places
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The Wild Places
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It was in the twentieth century that the deepwood came to its true end. During its course, forests were depleted at unprecedented speed across the western hemisphere. In Britain and Ireland, the two wars led to almost unregulated clear-felling. Half a million acres of broadleaf forest were felled in the years 1914 to 1918 to meet war needs. Techniques of woodsmanship and forest husbandry - regular cutting, coppicing and pollarding - that had been developed over centuries lapsed from practice. In the thirty years after 1945, the 'locust years', nearly half of the remaining ancient semi-natural forest remained was lost to plantation, development and the plough.

The deepwood is vanished in these islands - much, indeed, had vanished before history began - but we are still haunted by the idea of it. The deepwood flourishes in our architecture, art and above all in our literature. Unnumbered quests and voyages have taken place through and over the deepwood, and fairy tales and dream-plays have been staged in its glades and copses. Woods have always been a place of inbetweenness, somewhere one might slip from one world to another, or one time to a former: in Kipling's story 'Puck of Pook's Hill', it is by right of 'Oak and Ash and Thorn' that the children are granted their ability to voyage back into English history.

There is no mystery in this association of woods and otherworlds, for as anyone who has walked in woods knows, they are places of correspondence, of call and answer. Visual affinities of colour, relief and texture abound. A fallen branch echoes the deltoid form of the streambed into which it has come to rest. Chrome yellow autumn elm leaves find their colour rhyme in the eye-ring of a blackbird. Different aspects of the forest link unexpectedly with each other, and so it is that within the stories of forests, different times and worlds can be joined. Woods and forests have been essential to the imagination of these islands, and of countries throughout the world, for centuries. It is for this reason that when woods are felled, when they are suppressed by tarmac and concrete and asphalt, it is not only unique species and habitats that disappear, but also unique memories, unique forms of thought. Woods, like other wild places, can kindle new ways of being or cognition in people, can urge their minds differently.

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