A forester and writer of nonfiction and poetic work on trees and the changes needed in the British landscape to deal with climate and ecological emergencies.
My path towards writing Living With Trees has been an odd one: a degree in German, teaching English in Sudan, an anarchic spell at Green Deserts, then picking up sticks for a tree surgeon. This last job was the start of my 30 years of working with trees — beginning with climbing and pruning in London, then working on a broader scale both cutting commercial conifers and managing private woodlands in Wessex. It was hard work ‘on the tools’, but an excellent grounding: as an arboricultural climber mediating between people and trees in the city; as a forest worker trying to make a living with the challenges of rain, breakdowns and piece work; and as a small woodland manager trying to look after woods in difficult market conditions.
A job with a large contractor meant I could leave the mud behind and pursue forest management, including contracts for by-pass planting and a huge broadleaf plantation in Dorset. I qualified as a Chartered Forester and joined a small company managing woods on private estates, and it was a great privilege to stand in the long line of estate foresters looking after these beautiful woods. However, a persistent belief that woods should be an open resource for people and wildlife led me to join the Woodland Trust and manage some of their woods, primarily for conservation and public access.
Following a re-organisation at the Trust, I left to become an independent forestry consultant, undertaking management, planting and a new line as a forest certification auditor. It was around this time that the government tried to sell off the Forestry Commission woods and there was a huge up-swelling of interest in our woods.
In response to this, the environmental charity Common Ground approached me to revise their book In A Nutshell and so my work researching and writing Living With Trees began. In the years since then, funding has come and gone, the charity has changed hands, the book has grown in scope and COVID-19 has thrown plans into disarray — but now I am honoured to present my reflections on our trees and woods and my vision for the future.
I have also written a poetic version of the book titled #LivingWithTrees and published by art.earth in Evolving The Forest.
Current work includes promoting Living With Trees with talks, online at present but hopefully some live events later in 2021. Following on from this first book, I am researching another book considering the huge changes needed in the British landscape over the coming decades to deal with the climate and ecological emergencies — especially how we can live with two or three times as many trees and woods.
I have also been working on a hybrid poem / prose piece, working title justus, exploring how we arrived at this dire juncture and how we might address the situation. Development work is planned with a view to a multi-media project later in 2021.
Robin has contributed a piece on his book, Living with Trees, to our Creative Showcase portfolio, an evolving collection of new and recent works from our members. See Living with Trees.