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Book description

Oak has always held pride of place amongst trees in Britain. For centuries, its durability, strength and attractiveness have made it the timber of choice. When the British state was forged in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, these qualities made it a metaphor for the virtues of the nation. This book tells the story of mans use of this wonderful natural resource and argues that oak still has a rich future, both as a material and as a key element in an ecologically rich countryside. The authors are concerned with how people have managed and exploited oakwoods over time and with the uses to which oak timber has been put, in ships, furniture and buildings. As practicing foresters, they revisit with an experts eye the silvicultural techniques of the past - the methods of propagating, raising, managing, coppicing and felling oak through the trees life, from acorn to standard. They reveal the skills needed to work with oak timber, and tell the story of the great industries of iron-smelting and shipbuilding which relied on the tree. They also explore the myths, symbols and cultural associations that have connected people in Britain with the oak tree over hundreds of years. An appendix lists over 700 particularly significant oak trees, with notes on their location, present condition and historical connections. This book is a cultural history not only of a tree, but also of a timber. It reclaims the disappearing forestry and carpentry skills of our ancestors and shows how, in an era of climate change, oak can enrich our future as well as our past. Esmond Harris has spent a lifetime working as a forester, and is a past Director of The Royal Forestry Society. Jeanette Harris is a farmer and author. Together they wrote the best-selling Readers Digest Guide to the Trees and Shrubs of Britain . They run a small farm in Cornwall, where their renovation of woodlands won the 2002 Duke of Cornwalls Award for Forestry and Conservation. N. D. G. James, OBE was President of The Royal Forestry Society and author of several tree books. He died in 1993, having laid the foundations for this book.

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