Troubador Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood

Released: 28/11/2015

ISBN: 9781784624934

eISBN: 9781785894336

Format: Paperback/eBook

Review this Book

Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood

by

Keen to avoid a comfortable middle-aged existence, forester Chris Yarrow and his wife Anne dreamed of a countryside venture where they could be their own boss and create their own destiny. Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood tells the story of how they bought Wilderness Wood in Sussex and set about earning a living from just 63 acres, without compromising their darkest green credentials. Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood follows the couple’s search for a wood; achieving planning permission for a house and building it, through to the trials and rewards of pursuing a range of enterprises over thirty years. Using their professional backgrounds in forestry, countryside recreation and ecology, Chris and Anne transformed their nondescript palette of chestnut coppice and young plantations into a productive and award-winning example of multi-purpose forestry. As a commercial venture, the profitability of every activity was considered and Chris unashamedly makes his case for what he did and how he did it. He outlines the history and declining fortunes of lowland forestry, and shows how, in an era when so many lie neglected, their ancient wood was revitalised. Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood is a thought-provoking read that challenges fashionable practices such as clearance of non-native trees. Written with a large dollop of self-deprecation, it is a down-to-earth account by professionals who have actually worked their land. Filled with hard-earned wisdom, this book will appeal to those who own a wood, or dream of ownership, as well as the general reader interested in the countryside, woodlands or forestry.

I barely own a smartphone, and have never “twittered”, “facebooked”, or “blogged” in my life, but have been encouraged to perform some stream of consciousness account of our marketing process. So here goes!

Early August, 2015. Have just taken delivery of our books, which have quadrupled the size of our library,
and somewhat over-dominate the trees section. Delighted with the feel of the book, with its fine linocut dust jacket illustration, heavy paper and pleasing layout. So glad we commissioned a professional book designer.

Post a dozen books to friends who had pre-ordered copies, and send out twice as many free copies to those who helped us bring the book to fruition. Pray that this free-to-sales ratio is only temporary.

August 18th. Wendy, editor of Parish magazine, agrees to publicise the book-launch at the Wood.

August 22nd. Wedding of nephew in Warwickshire means increasing that ratio even further, but console ourselves that the book makes a wonderful present to those sympathetic to the cause. Drop a book off at Jafé and Neal, Chipping Norton, a lovely independent bookshop. Wonderful range of books, and nice cup of coffee, too!
August 28th. Send out invites for book-launch at the Wood. Realise how few of our early staff we have email addresses for.

Early Sept. Spend a few days gathering addresses, and then emailing contacts about the birth of our book baby. We hope the slow response is because people are away on holiday.
Sept. 18th. Hurry back from a few days in Provence to attend Weald Woodfair, where I do two days signing and a couple of talks - the book’s first exposure. Slightly upstaged by the launch of Ben Law’s latest offering at a stand arranged by his publisher.

Sept. 26th. Book-signing and official launch at Wilderness Wood, by kind permission of Dan and Emily, the present owners. Lovely to see a good number of our earlier employees, many of whose names appear in the book. Rather disappointed with the turnout of the village, and the World Cup not even on until the evening. Sales:gifts ratio looking healthy at last!

Sept. 28th. A great day. Much Ado bookshop in Alfriston orders several, and suggests a talk sometime. The East Grinstead Bookshop, whose owner had been so encouraging in our early days, orders ten, and I drop off a further ten at British Bookshops in Uckfield, where the manageress suggests a book-signing, date to be arranged.

Sept. 30th. Leave a copy at the Uckfield Public Library, whose manager tells me her daughter has been to the Wood. How often we hear that! Half the county’s kids seem to have been with their school or to a party. How do we tempt their parents to buy the book?
Motor to my home town, Lewes, and find Leadbetter and Good have already ordered a copy from the wholesalers, but manage to sell a further two for CASH! Give a card to head of County Library Service, who just happens to be in the shop. Call by a further two independent shops, Flint and Skylark, who both place useful orders. Waterstones could not order there and then, but nice young woman promises a book-signing in November, which could be a peg to hang publicity on.
Late Sept. Enthusiastic reviews in the Quarterly Journal of Forestry and Smallwoods magazines, and 6,000 inserted leaflets fall onto doormats all over the kingdom. First four orders from their readers flop onto my mat. Go out and bulk-buy appropriate postage stamps.

Early October. Three reviews on the Troubador site, all complimentary, and one, rightly in my opinion, points out the book would make a great Christmas present. Ponder whether we should offer our readers a special deal on repeat orders. A lifetime’s membership of the Grumpy Old Gits club has clearly had an effect on my writing, as one reviewer comments that I on occasion come across as rather grumpy.

Oct. 6th. Visit Mr. Books in Tonbridge, a lovely shop that mainly sells second-hand books, but also admits to stocking “very local” new ones too. At 25 miles are we local enough? Offers us a book-signing slot, but I ponder whether we have the same draw as the children’s author who apparently had people queuing in the street all morning.
Find that the large Tunbridge Wells WH Smiths buyer is not in. This buyer seems to be in charge of orders for local branches, as well as for British Bookshops, so my calls at other local outlets may be superfluous. Nice buyer at Waterstones would like to stock, and suggests a talk one evening in January. Will such an event lift post-Christmas, SAD-enhanced blues? I might have to polish up the stand-up comedy routine.
Spend a day researching bookshops and emailing or ‘phoning ones we have already contacted. It seems some big ones are using as the excuse for delay, that our official Publication Date is not till the end of November. A small shop in Brighton can’t take books if my daughter drops them off in her lunchbreak, because their computer won’t allow it! Perhaps there is scope for a book on excuses for lack of action by store, bank, local authority staff and other jobsworths in these days of computer-dominated commerce.

Oct. 20th. Anne says I am becoming a sales-obsessed bore, and locals will cross the street to avoid my quizzing them on why they haven’t made that purchase yet. Realise that because I haven’t written a title such as “Fifty Shades of Green”, promoting the book may be as much effort as writing it. Foresters in UK have traditionally been shrinking violets, assuming that their long-term efforts for the benefit of Mankind are self-evident and need no promotion. Meanwhile, clever “environmentalists” get away with half-true propaganda and “save” woodlands from the likes of me. Fortunately, 30 years of marketing Wilderness Wood have prepared me for some proactive efforts in this field. No doubt writers who had trained as double-glazing salesmen would do even better.

Oct 21st. 10.30am. Appear on Uckfield FM, a local commercial radio station that likes to leaven its outpourings of popular music with interviews. Unlike an accomplished politician, forget to consult my list of points to make, so get side-tracked onto the subject of rules and regulations. As the broadcasting radius is only 5 miles, my poor performance will not have been witnessed by too many bored housewives.

Oct 23rd. Telephone order from well-spoken lady in Dorset, who learned of the book in a local shop. Her subsequent full-price cheque indicates she is not “doing an Amazon” on the shop, ie noting the ISBN and finding a cheaper on-line supplier.

Oct 24th. Receive communication from County Librarian thanking me for the “donation” of my book. Not sure what the etiquette is these days, but must consider this part of my contribution to the Big Society in these wonderful days of cutbacks.. With 24 branches this gives each library an average of 15 days each per year, or 13 pages, and half a page of colour photos on a fulltime basis. Should I reply offering a bulk discount on a two-book purchase?

Nov 3rd. Have email from old friend who teaches at Plumpton College, telling me he is showing our special way of managing trees (CCF, if you read the book!) up at the wood this Thursday. Can he have a copy? Am thinking what sort of offer to make if he makes it required reading. Lecturers at Uni. Used to do this with their own books in the olden days. Probably illegal now, along with asking the prettiest girl in the class to stay behind for a personalised seminar.

15th Nov. Had a meeting yesterday with lovely girl at Lewes Waterstones to plan the book-signing on 27th Nov. at 6.30pm. She suggests I talk and do readings for about 25 minutes from 7.15, which will give some entertainment as well as the free drinks we are supposed to supply. Glad the Mayor of Lewes will be coming, as it gives some credibility. I wonder if she will wear the mayor's chain Dad so proudly wore over the years he held the post? Her appearance may yet interest the press, who so far not responded to our press-releases. When we ran the wood, local papers and other media fell over themselves to feature our events. Now they seem little more than vehicles for ads from estate agents, garden centres and car-dealers, with tabloid front pages screaming affronts to local sensibilities.
Sussex Stationers and East Grinstead Books have just repeated their orders, possible as a result of the multi-page feature in the Ashdown Forest Living mag. Must see if they too would like a book-signing!

18th Nov. British Bookshops in Uckfield have just phoned confirming a book-signing on 2nd December over lunch. Must get down there with some posters, whereas Waterstones will produce them themselves.
Just off to same to see how Michael Palin does his there, and hope to pick up a trick or two. Will he swap one of his for mine?

21st Nov. No, he didn't, as I could be fagged to queue 15m outside in the rain while celeb fans had previous books under their arms. I didn't observe if he had a quota per person, and wonder how many were sold of his latest. Must ask Lucie, my Waterstones event contact.
Spent morning at Hadlow Down Christmas Fair,with my stand of books wedged between Paul, with his own-pig sausages, and a local lady who re-canes and sells seats. All considered a good morning's sales, as word gets round that the book is quite readable. Finalise the leaflets to go in next month's Parish Mag, which is hand-delivered to 300 households.

1st Dec. Rave review in the county-wide lifestyle mag. Sussex Life. Let's hope that gets people onto their bookshops.

6th Dec. Signing at Waterstones went nicely, though numbers a bit disappointing, due in part to being a very wet evening. Over-catered, but who minds having spare wine and olives, etc at this time of year?
Had excellent review in Parish Mag., but so far the phone has not been melting with calls to buy the book direct. As they say: you can lead a horse to water...Much better luck this last weekend at the Wood, where Christmas tree sales were in full swing. Emily there has a book stand as part of the Xmas Fair in the pole-framed marquee we built for Jo's wedding three years ago. Anne and I are manning it next Sunday, so will feature a signing, and see if the Great Author's presence will have a perceptible effect.

8th Dec. Crowborough branch of Smiths/British Booksellers have taken 10 copies. The previous manageress, who had read the Sussex Life review, hadn't passed on my contact details to her successor. In these days of supermarkets, no one gets to learn how to run a whelk stall before joining a national chain.


14th Dec. Up at the Wood this past weekend to lend a hand generally, and man Emily's bookstall in the Christmas Market there. Sold a reasonable quantity, mainly to people who have known the place a number of years, and return to buy their tree, perhaps not visiting on any other occasion.
Pleased to see Troubador have supplied 50 copies since I last checked sales. Let's hope there aren't too many returns in the new year!

Winter solstice. Phone-call from Smith's in Crowborough to say they've sold out, so wizz up there too supply another box-full. Apparently, they've been on display in the window, which shows the importance of book location. Visited Waterstones in Lewes, but couldn't see it, so they clearly don't think it's a money-spinner, unlike "Go set a Watchman" of which there was a whole pile.
Glad to see several good reviews on the ebook sites, but what the book really needs is a zealot to to enthuse on his so-called social media twatter system. Readers of Thirty Years will find I am not a fan of such time-consuming activities. No wonder one reviewer called me "grumpy".

28th December. Return from post-Xmas family shindig in Midlands, where relations all expected a book as their prezzy, but were disappointed. Brother-in law, Jim Keeling, who set up a highly successful pottery at Whichford, gave it a huge thumbs-up, especially the chapter "Money Matters". Must see if there is still a rural business advisory board.
Discover several emails from friends who had received one as a gift from a spouse; all complimentary, and I don't think it's just the season of goodwill that made them take the trouble to write. All 7 local Waterstones stores list the book as "only a few left". Is this storespeak for "Hurry while stocks last"?

Jan 25th. Just getting back to the routine of normal life, after a few days on the isle of Madeira, where we were glad to see we weren't the oldest tourists. Just received my copy of Chartered Forester. where the reviewer refers to "outstanding descriptive writing...that takes the reader inside the heart of the story". And to think some people consider foresters illiterate wood-choppers! I wonder, however, how many fellow chartered foresters will now be rushing out as a result of such gushing praise?

Must now address promoting the book, at least in ebook form, to all those colleges offering courses in rural management.

Narch 3rd. Have been rather idle these last few weeks, due to factors beyond my control. Despite rave reviews my fellow foresters are no longer bookish it seems. We are all bombarded with things we MUST do and read, little time is left for non-essentials, such as light reading. To think that, in the '60's we thought that too much leisure would be the problem!
Waterstones in Tunbridge Wells are having a "Meet the author"evening on March 16th. Let's hope the promise of free drinks and my wit and wisdom will prove sufficient draw. Must continue circulating all those in easy range of this respectable town.

March 23rd. Talk and reading at Waterstones last week went quite well,
but I can see why most authors only provide peanuts and orange juice. Our wine and home-made canapes must have seemed a bargain at £3.00 for the entrance price, deductible from a purchase.

November 1st 2017. It's 18 months since I last updated this, as life has been full in the interim. It would be nice to say that Troubador were pressing me for a second print-run, but I must be honest and say that both we and they have a few boxes left. I had an email from a fan in Australia, who had got her local Sydney library to stock a copy.
Talks to groups such as U3A have interested me and I hope, the audience, and about 15% buy a copy, which with the speaker's fee, makes the outing worthwhile.
I pressed the button to do some e-book promotion, and had 3 excellent reviews, plus, more importantly, sales, despite the reported fall-off in e-books. Daughter (Kate Yarrow) has kindly mentioned it on her Facebook, and her charity, Doctors for Nepal, will in future get a percentage of sales. Must admit I can't face joining Facebook myself, but see it's the future until abuse by the likes of Putin and Farage clip its wings.
Must grump myself off to the pub.

Halfman, Halfbook

Chartered Forester

Sussex Life

Small Woodland Owners Group

Smallwoods

Quarterly Journal of Forestry

This book describes wild dreams and niggling realities with exactly the same acerbic, finely-detailed eye and I found it riveting. The dream was to live in a wood and make it pay; the realities included gales, workshy helpers, whittled profit margins and what seems to have been an exhausting daily grind. What I didn't find here, thank God, was any sense of regret. In fact, what I took from this beautifully insightful book was a vivid, fiercely accurate description of exactly how to live any kind of dream and keep your head above water and your motives more or less pure. It's sometimes grumpy (the Great British Public comes in for a bit of unfair slating), but never less than intriguing. I'd recommend it to anyone who loves trees, dreams and the intrigue of everyday getting-by.

by Nicholas Roe


Chris Yarrow has a refreshingly light touch when he describes how the management of Wilderness Wood evolved. The book particularly excels in its account of the people involved. The narrative is full of entertaining stories about the Yarrow family, their fellow villagers, those who worked at the wood and the woodland visitors. These absorbing tales and anecdotes combine to create a very readable and wholly enjoyable book.

by Richard Swann


This is a tremendous read. It is written with the wry wit and colourful flair of a true entertainer. We are drawn into a tale of a family's determined struggle to make a longed-for dream come true, and we cheer them on as they confront ignorance and bureaucracy and triumph despite it. We are exhausted by the vast amount of sheer hard work put into the loving restoration of a neglected wood and its transformation into a productive and fascinating place to be, and we rejoice in their weathering all the trials and tribulations to reach their goal.
This would make a splendid Christmas present!

by Winnow Hardy


Chris Yarrow's excellent book can be enjoyed as a story of idealism tempered with the need to engage with the real world to make ideas work in practice. It is a tribute to the ability to think outside the box and to the value of sheer hard work.
At a different level it shows how the management of this small wood can point the way to a better and more sustainable future for the woods and forests of the UK. The latent support and affection for our woods and forests was evident from the enormous outcry when the government proposed to sell off the national forests. The challenge is to engage and educate the public to realize that it is not sufficient to "leave it all to nature" and to overcome the simplistic view that native and broadleaf trees are good and non-native and conifer trees are always bad. Chris and Anne Yarrow have proved that multiple use of woodland for recreation, education, firewood, rustic furniture and timber production is not a romantic dream but the way to a sustainable future. They have also shown that timber production using a version of continuous cover forestry works well with this multiple use. One of the pet hates of the public is the planting and growth of dark uniform conifer forests followed by the ugly aftermath caused by clearfelling. Continuous cover forestry means we can have attractive forests whilst still producing useful timber.

by Emlyn and Shirley Williams


As a woodsman and a wood man, I felt a deep camaraderie with Chris Yarrow and his masterful accounting of his thirty years returning a neglected wood into a sustainable living and a home for his family.
I too have spent the last thirty years caring for my own piece of land that is similar in size to Wilderness Wood and I know what it takes to turn that kind of dream into a reality.
His love of nature, his desire to preserve the touch of the wood and the sheer joy of working in the open air will infuse in every reader that same fierce desire to preserve his or her own bit of the earth.
As Chris and Anne have done, perhaps we can too can leave this planet a bit better than when we found it.
This is a must read!

by Stan Reifel


Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood and fifty years as friends…

I met Chris Yarrow in Montana where we were both attending the University. I don’t think either of us would have ever guessed that our lives would follow similar directions and that our friendship would endure because of our shared desire to “ go it alone”, live surrounded by nature, and leave our small piece of the world a better place.

Like Chris and Anne, my husband and I chose to live and work on the land, though theirs was in the UK and ours in Montana.
Although we could never say that we worked that hard nor accomplished as much, when we read Chris’ accounting of the thirty years, both my husband and I understood what determination it took to choose that lifestyle. With the side-by-side support of Anne, they raised a family with values so nearly lost in these days of super technology.

Chris Yarrow’s writing is masterful-as witty and full of sideways humor as it is informative. Who knew what coppicing was?

Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood is a book that gives us more than a primer for those wishing to follow that path. It gives us heart and an understanding that we can, with our will and our hands, create a thing of lasting beauty. He and Anne have shown us a way to bridge that gap between history and modernity, between a discarded piece of land and a cherished place of joy for thousands of visitors.

We all need to read this book!

by Dana Boussard


THIRTY YEARS IN WILDERNESS WOOD by Chris Yarrow

This book is a good read. It's a fascinating story of two people who followed their dream and in 1980 bought an already wonderfully named wood called Wilderness Wood. They wanted more than the run of the mill 'good life'; wanting to be as sustainable as possible but also managing the wood so that it provided an amenity for local people to enjoy as well as providing timber for sale. They did not eschew making a profitable living from their wood but as Chris Yarrow explains, you don't get rich from a small wood unless you are exploiting it to the detriment of its appearance, feel, and the long term balance and character of the trees. As someone with a first degree in forestry and a Masters in amenity forestry, he was determined to prove that a small wood in East Sussex could be brought back from a wholly coppiced wood to a variegated one in which people would love to wander and which could also provide timber and timber products. As a lay person I enjoyed and learnt from his clear and detailed descriptions of how he went about changing his woodland environment as well as preserving the best aspects. With great pride Chris and his wife, Anne, built a timber framed barn sourced from their own wood and this became the hub for many activities such as fungi forays and school visits organised by Anne, an ecologist.
The Great Storm which swept across East Sussex in October 1987 tested their resolve and added another layer of worry and complexity to their venture.
It is a very readable book, whether you are interested in woods or not. Maybe the short chapter near the end of the book called 'Money Matters' was more didactic than the rest although it did provide a summary of Chris's experience and approach to the project as whole. It displayed his underlying philosophy of preserving and enhancing the wood and providing an income for his family.
You are left with a deep admiration for the couple and their dedication and resolve.

by Maureen Maidment


A must read text book for anyone runnining or owning a rural destination or business. Chris is both entertaining and concise with his stories and observations, this made the book an easy read.
This book left me with a deeper appreciation of Chris and Anne's quiet efforts to shed light on a greener and more sustainable way of living.
I particularly enjoyed the chapter Money Matter, which runs through Chris's business rules.


by Clive Collins SCOTEC Dip For


Most of us talk a good game about living off the grid – Chris Yarrow and his wife Anne, actually did it. In 1980 they made the bold move of buying Wilderness Wood, using almost every penny of their money to do so, and then finding a way to make a living off the 60 some odd acres. Needless to say, this sounds more romantic than it actually was, as Yarrow and his wife soon discover as they have to mess about with planning permission and finding a successful way of putting food on the table and keeping themselves warm in the winter. Funny, sometimes alarming, but always fascinating, this is the true story of a couple who dared risk everything to realize their dream.

by Rosemary Smith


My dream come true. Leaving everything and go living in the forest. That is what this book is about. A true and engaging story about how to live the way that really makes you happy, embracing nature and despite the inconvenients and difficulties. Funny and tender.

by Maria Alcaide


Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood by Chris Yarrow documents how he and his family survived, lived, and cultivated 63 hectares or acres of Sussex, close to Hadlow Down, woodland into the beautiful nature park it has become. Chris was a free-lance forester during the economic depressed 70’s. He had earned his masters while in Montana, USA and returned to south-east Britain with hopes of one day living on land he could preserve and earn a living. Anne’s degrees in geography and conservation enabled her to be knowledgeable in the type of acreage they would need to fulfill this dream of a sustainable nature park. He and his wife Anne wanted a different life for their family. By the time they had searched and purchased Wilderness Wood they had two young daughters, Jo and Kate, in 1980.
As I read the struggles for this family as they began the arduous tasks of living during the first lean years of hard work to improve, cultivate, and plan a future at the site I was hooked with this story. As I read through the book, I would find myself looking online at the present-day results of Chris and Anne’s dream and the work of many to make this a reality. It was exciting to read how they finally received approval to build a home on a specific area in 1983. This home became a tangible reality by 1985.
Once you start reading Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood you will be engrossed in the details of how a family lived within the laws and restraints of land conservation, timber management, and how living among nature helped shape the lives of Jo and Kate. The design and marketing of the woodworking for furniture was a financial help as well as the Christmas tree part of the project.
You will see pictures of the beautiful bluebells, see maps of trails, read of the devastation of a winter storm, and the resulting success of a village, community, and supporting group of people who came together to bring to culmination a most wonderful conservation of land in this award-winning nature park!

by Diane Lochala


Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood by Chris Yarrow documents how he and his family survived, lived, and cultivated 63 hectares or acres of Sussex, close to Hadlow Down, woodland into the beautiful nature park it has become. Chris was a free-lance forester during the economic depressed 70’s. He had earned his masters while in Montana, USA and returned to south-east Britain with hopes of one day living on land he could preserve and earn a living. Anne’s degrees in geography and conservation enabled her to be knowledgeable in the type of acreage they would need to fulfill this dream of a sustainable nature park. He and his wife Anne wanted a different life for their family. By the time they had searched and purchased Wilderness Wood they had two young daughters, Jo and Kate, in 1980.
As I read the struggles for this family as they began the arduous tasks of living during the first lean years of hard work to improve, cultivate, and plan a future at the site I was hooked with this story. As I read through the book, I would find myself looking online at the present-day results of Chris and Anne’s dream and the work of many to make this a reality. It was exciting to read how they finally received approval to build a home on a specific area in 1983. This home became a tangible reality by 1985.

Once you start reading Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood you will be engrossed in the details of how a family lived within the laws and restraints of land conservation, timber management, and how living among nature helped shape the lives of Jo and Kate. The design and marketing of the woodworking for furniture was a financial help as well as the Christmas tree part of the project.
You will see pictures of the beautiful bluebells, see maps of trails, read of the devastation of a winter storm, and the resulting success of a village, community, and supporting group of people who came together to bring to culmination a most wonderful conservation of land in this award-winning nature park!

by Diane Lochala


This is a very heartening book which shows that determination, perseverance, and sheer hard work can bring ultimate success. Chris and Anne's experience of Thirty Years at Wilderness Wood is a chronicle of overcoming the many obstacles thrown at them, but also of a life led in the way they wanted, based on the things they valued, and it shows the satisfaction of seeing a viable woodland enterprise at the end of the day. They have clearly brought pleasure to the many people who have visited the country world that they created. Chris highlights the entertaining moments as well as the difficulties that they experienced. The book is a good read and it will give anyone embarking on a new project insights into the good and the bad times that they may have ahead.

by Sandra Mason


A interesting read that even had some very funny moments you wouldn't have expected. It's definitely not the norm. You like the characters who are telling the story and are a very interesting couple themselves. It was almost too short of a read and you kind of wanted a little bit more. So if you want to take a trip to the English forestry side of things, pick up a copy and enjoy the many shards of wisdom and pleasantry that may come your way.

by Cassandra Graham


I recommend this book on several levels: the writing style is engaging; the reflections on choosing an 'idyllic lifestyle's and the very real practicalities and challenges faced; the book includes some useful tips information on running a small business in bureaucratic Britain; it reflects the experiences of real people rather than the 'celebrity' chooses this or that extreme lifestyle choice.

by Chris Gilman


Lots of people have dreams about where they want to live, their perfect career but very rarely do these get realised or combined. Chris and Anne Yarrow are one of the few that have been able to do this when they purchased Wilderness Wood in Sussex. This 63-acre plot of woodland was to become a home, a source of income and a way of life.

This unassuming wood was to become their home after they managed to secure planning permission to build there, and the scrappy chestnut coppice that was there evolved to become an award-winning example of how to manage a small woodland. They built a barn which became a multiuse facility for schools and craft days, a tea room was constructed for that needed necessary refreshment after walking their dogs an in time became an integral part of the village.

There are some amusing anecdotes in the book, but Yarrow has written a practical and pragmatic guide to running a woodland in modern day Britain, on the trees to grow for the best income, where to use outside resource and where you need to add value to the end product to maximise income. There are chapters on the best way to grow Christmas trees, the 1987 storm, managing a woodland for income and wildlife and seeking the best way to get a work-life balance. If you have ever contemplated the possibilities that owning a woodland could offer this is a book full of advice on what to do, and more importantly what not to do.

by Paul Cheney


Incredible journey of Anne and Chris Yarrow!!!! At the end of thirty years, they sold that piece of land, a running business, as monetarily average as it may have been given their exceptional hard work, but their life was spent together, memories (and possibly some errant enemies) made along the way. They created history and it surprised me that the new owners (The Morrish family) limit Yarrows legacy on their website - after all, Wilderness Wood HAS a history! There is a connection to the land and its people too.

Btw, where are the Yarrows living now? And what are they up to?

by Noor Ilhuda


It's a really interesting read, detailing a family's progress from first idea, searching for the right wood, purchasing and of course building a home and business from it.
I enjoyed reading about their day to day struggles, with not just Nature but Those (nominally) In Charge. The Officials who make the rules, but don't always realise the one size doesn't fit all, and things like soil type can vary within a few hundred yards, therefore growing some kinds of trees, while it may be in Local Plans, just won't work.

I think in the UK we can get OTT over planning, obsessional almost over control, and Chris and Anne find this again and again. They want what ostensibly the planners want, to return a woodland to a working woods, to look after, to protect, to encourage healthy trees, but sometimes – as I've found myself – officials are too ready to land Tree Protection Orders on trees that just don't need it. Rules and regulations get in the way of practicality and doing whats right for that woodland, not necessarily whats right on paper or proscribed in Local Plans.
I really felt for them when they came up against officials and locals determined not to listen to their plans, convinced they were out to ruin the land. Somehow though they work through, and I loved the successes and the descriptions of the working wood, and that gorgeous house.

It gave me lots to think about, opened my eyes to the many things that can be done with woodlands. I wish I'd been able to do something along these lines when younger.
I've always had a love of nature, enjoying growing things and seeing them mature, and trees of course can take a very long time to reach maturity, but there are ways of making money from younger trees while encouraging mature ones for future generations.
It's not just wood that's harvested, but leaf mulch, charcoal making, school trips and education, cafes and woodland walks, basket and hurdle making, so many things not just planks and logs from trees.
Of course we also get the benefit of plants and fungi that flourish in healthy woodland, the animals, birds and insects that depend on the trees in all states from young to rotten, and of course they way trees clean the air.
I love the keeping of old crafts, of the way woods were used in the past, I feel we do let so much old knowledge go in the quest for modernisation. The UK has a centuries long forestry heritage, and I'd like to play a part in keeping that.

Its not all fun and games though, trees take a lot of work, and though I've only four acres of land it seems there's always tree limbs need pruning, sapling thinned out to encourage strong growth and dead trees to be felled – only yesterday, 30th December, we had to remove two silver birches in danger of falling into the road. It natural progression that trees age and need to be managed, but its expensive if like me you can't do it yourself. Its been entertaining read of Chris and Anne's struggles and successes, and anyone interested in doing something along these lines will learn much for the book.

Stars: five, a practical and entertaining read, with careful dollops of gentle humour to balance.

by Jeannie Zelos


An informative book following a family as they attempt to live off grid in the Lewes countryside. This is a detailed account and whilst it would be a must read for anyone interested in following in these footsteps, or pursuing forestry at any level, it was also well written and entertaining for the purely escapist reader.

by Amy Jones


A great read. It tells of a couple wanting to live in woods and how they do it. A must read.

by Ann Stewart


The Yarrows are fascinating people who I would love to meet in person. There aren't many people who could do what they did; I think that most people (myself included) would have given up with some of the hardships they faced. I really enjoyed reading about how they did it, especially the intersection of wilderness and civilization.

by Janette Forman


Chris and his wife Anne decide to sell everything and but a Wood. They plan on building a home there, raise their family and live off the land. In this book he writes about their experiences, what worked and what did not. I really liked reading about the town and the characters that lived there and used the woods. The author also includes a lot of technical information about the woods, forestry, the history of forestry in England and more. Anyone planning on doing something similar will find a lot of practical information. The rest of us will enjoy the armchair journey.

by Kari Cook


Chris and Anne Yarrow

Brought up in Lewes, Sussex, Chris studied forestry in Wales and countryside recreation in Montana, USA. After some years as consultants in these fields, in 1980 he and his wife Anne bought Wilderness Wood, so that they could practise what they had preached to their clients. For thirty years they lived the rural dream and ran a woodland venture which won many prizes and became an exemplar for sustainable woodland management. With two grown up daughters, Chris and Anne are now retired.

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