Well at last I’ve got going with my 20 Books of Summer (intro post here), and in fact I’m part-way into Helen Ashton’s “The Half-Crown House”, too, so feel like I’ve made a proper start. The lovely Bookish Beck sent me this one in her 2020 December parcel, something of a tradition now; this had been better edited than some in that parcel (I think this is actually the last one from it) and there are fewer pencilled corrections!

Ruth Pavey – “A Wood of One’s Own”

(24 December 2020, from Bookish Beck)

What pleasure there is in learning another landscape, and the stories that have grown from it. (p. 12)

In this charming book, Ruth Pavey decides she wants to buy a piece of woodland to look after and cherish and in which to plant trees, after she realises this is what she wants to do but finds other places, like allotments, too temporary to do so. She returns to the land of her ancestors, Somerset, the bit near Bridgwater, to do so, and we read about her purchase of, settling into and work on the wood, as well as her relationships with her neighbours and various working people of the countryside.

It’s all very practical though with some romantic notions (she develops the idea of a mediaeval owner of Sugg’s Orchard before discovering what zuggy actually means, and has notions of keeping ancient apples going that are floored when no one can decide what varieties they are). She is resourceful and relatively fearless, installing herself for a number of years in a little wheeled workers’ wagon before moving to spend nights in a cottage. She bonds with various brothers and cousins, which is lovely to read about, especially exciting when some Overds are mentioned, as I’m descended from Somerset Overds myself! I also loved how all sorts of people gave her trees they’d grown when they found out she had a wood. There are only a couple of “Nature red in tooth and claw” moments and one page of unpleasantness – not bad for a modern nature book!

While she’s unable to explain to a friend what all this is “for”, she obviously gets huge pleasure from the wood and her efforts in it. She makes improvements and leaves all the various animals and insects alone in it, though she does feel that they melt away when she’s there and return when she goes. The long-term nature of it is highlighted and the impossibility of finishing it:

And, or so I try to comfort myself, it is not in the nature of this project to yield instant results. (p. 169)

This was number 1 in my 20 Books of Summer 2022!

This was also TBR Challenge 2021-22 Quarter 3 Book 8/41 – 33 to go.