Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Meetings with Remarkable Trees

Meetings with Remarkable TreesMeetings with Remarkable Trees by Thomas Pakenham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I consider myself a semi-outdoorsman. I’m not as hardcore as many of my friends. I’ve had friends who have kayaked the Aleutian Islands looking for (and finding) mummies. I’ve had others who have hiked the Appalachian Trail in its entirety. Still others friends have spent a Winter (well, their Summer) in Antarctica.

Me? I’ve been on a few week-long canoeing trips. I love to hike the hills and walk up mountains. I’ve done more than my share of camping, whether in the true wilds or in State Parks.

But, in all honesty, while I love to be outdoors, I’m not hardcore. About the most hardcore thing I’ve done is winter paddling in Wisconsin (which can kill you rather easily, I must note), but I just don’t have the time or money for a bunch of wild adventures into the hinterlands.

Still, I’m a nature lover. And one thing I really, truly love is a good tree. Yeah, I’ve hugged a tree or two in my day. But not nearly as many as Thomas Pakenham.

Meetings with Remarkable Trees is a remarkable book. In it, Pakenham explores Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, and England searching for the largest, oldest, and most storied trees in the UK. The book is illustrated throughout with Pakenham's outstanding photographs, each accompanied by anecdotes about the trees themselves, those who loved and cared for them, and those for whom a certain tree stood as a significant landmark or a marker of historical significance. Within the book's pages, you'll meet the Fredville and Bowthorpe oaks (the largest common oaks in Britain and Ireland), the strawberry tree at Kew Gardens, The Martyrs' sycamore at Tolpuddle (under which The Tolpuddle Affair commenced). Here also, one can see The Dead Walk of yews at Murthly, where tradition dictates that the laird of Murthly can only pass from the chapel to the house, never traveling from the house to the chapel . . . in this life. Even murder plots find their way into the book, through a 16th-Century plot to assassinate the husband of Mary Queen of Scots, which was hatched under The Whittinghame Yew.

These are only a few of the 65 trees or groups of trees that Pakenham so lovingly documents. This is the ultimate tree-lover's book. And if you're not a tree lover before you open its (ironically) glossy pages, you will be by the end of the book.

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