Branching out

My friend has bought a small wood in Suffolk; it’s more of a copse or spinney, I’d say. And he goes there to coppice, and fell, and plant, and weed, and generally tend. I don’t know what it cost him, but he’s not rich. He certainly seems happy when he goes there.

If you should fancy doing the same, how much would you have to pay? Very roughly, upwards of £5,000 an acre. And one football pitch can be around an acre and a half. Not cheap, admittedly, but you could have it for life.

Thinking of going ahead? Before you do, it’s worth factoring in additional expenditure for two books, mainly as an inspiration but occasionally as a warning. These are: Woodlander: A Guide to Sustainable Woodland Management, and Woodland Craft, with a foreword by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.


From guidance on planning your planting scheme to managing for timber and creating forest gardens, every page is infused with a deep respect for the traditions of the past while also embracing new ideas, methods and creative thinking


Appropriately enough the author, Ben Law, lives in Prickly Nut Wood, West Sussex, and I’m initially tempted to say that he knows all there is to know about woods and woodland crafts. But, no, on second thoughts, I have little doubt his view would be that after 30 years, he’s still learning something new every season. However, besides being a woodsman, he’s also a craftsman, builder, teacher and writer. That’s when he’s not running courses and tours as well as training apprentices.

I cannot begin to tell you all the contents of Woodlander such is the breadth of information included. In the beginning, Ben describes, over some 16 pages, the different types of woodland; then come chapters on understanding and establishing woodland, management, tools, selling timber, forest produce and social activities.

If you’re thinking of buying woodland, I’d advise reading the end chapter first.

Woodland Craft

In this book, you’ll find things to make from a spoon to a steam-bent lounger, as well as details of which woods to use, with comments about the resurgence of interest in simplicity.

There’s also a directory of tree species, crafts for farm and garden, building and crafts, for fuel; and plenty on the tools and devices to use.

If you want to make, for example, the ladder-back rocking chair pictured, the photos will guide you through the process with admirable clarity.


Ben provides instructions for more than 20 charming projects to tackle at home, all hewn from freshly-cut green wood and shaped by hand

Even if you only go for a walk in the woods from time to time, or are limited for most of the year to living in a high-rise flat in a city centre, I’d still recommend reading both of these books.


Woodlander: A Guide to Sustainable Woodland Management, by Ben Law
Typical price: £25
ISBN: 9781784945572

Woodland Craft, by Ben Law – foreword by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Typical price: £16.99
ISBN: 9781784943967