By Michael Heathcoat Amory
Published Adelphi Publishers, 2009 - £25.00
This is a remarkable book in many ways. Not only because it is a very comprehensive guide to the world’s oaks, but because it reflects a unique collection of growing oaks created by someone who will never see the collection at its finest. In the true tradition of English tree planters, Michael Heathcoat Amory has devoted himself to amassing a collection of oaks that are capable of being grown in England, but of course in the course of his lifetime, may will still be mere saplings. It will be a century or more before they reach maturity.
It is a comprehensive account of the species being grown, and lavishly illustrated. The photographs were nearly all taken by James MacEwen, a long time supporter of the World Land Trust. In fact his enthusiasm for oaks has led me to start gathering acorns when travelling to any parts of our projects where the trees might survive the English climate. In addition I have collected a few acorns, now growing, from my vacations’ in Sicily and Greece. But it is Mexico where one of the greatest proliferations of oak species occurs, and in the future we are hoping to introduce our Mexican partners from Sierra Gorda to this fascinating collection.
It is a book I would thoroughly recommend to supporters of the WLT for several reasons. First it does illustrate and inform about species that are found in some of our project areas. Second, and to me more important it shows what a single person’s enthusiasm can achieve, and third, but not least, it demonstrates the diversity that we are in danger of losing if we do not preserve as many of the natural habitats as possible. Seeing these trees growing in England will, I hope inspire people to save the natural forests where they occur.
Review by John Burton