`I could have a hut in the wood, beneath the oaks, and in summer bring to life Yeats's dream of living in a bee-loud glade'

Why buy a wood? Having asked myself the question a good few times recently, I am still not sure of the answer. To own a parcel of woodland has long been an ambition, but never until recently had I pursued the idea with any urgency. Then I heard that a particular wood was for sale in Shropshire, and sent for the particulars.

Just over 50 acres, lying on a sheltered slope at the foot of the Long Mynd: some mature larch and Douglas fir, but a good deal of oak and ash; two little streams running through it, and no public access; it sounded idyllic. No matter that the asking price of pounds 65,000 was way over my ceiling: the place it must be worth an investigation.

I asked Kevin - a professional forester who lives in that area - to sneak a preliminary look. He reported that the wood was attractive, and the quality of the Douglas was better than he had expected.

As soon as I could manage it, I was there. Together Kevin and I collected the key to the padlock on the gate, let ourselves through, parked the car and stood listening to a glorious silence. Tall oaks and ashes bordered the green track, which led gently downhill into the depths of the wood.

Immediately, I was hooked. The oaks were perhaps 80 years old and nicely spaced, with a high canopy and, at ground level, patches of moss between their trunks. The little streams ran clear as gin. Under the Douglas we came on a vast badger earth, with numerous well-worn entrances. At the far edge of the larch we found a buzzard's nest, and when we hesitated under the tree, the adult birds screamed out strident protests. A fox slipped across the track just ahead of us. Best of all, the whole wood was landlocked, with fields encircling it and no road in sight.

As we explored, Kevin's professional eye was sizing everything up. The larch were mature and should be felled; the Douglas needed a final thinning; the big oak and ash could carry on untouched for some years; the hazel should be coppiced, the rides swiped out. Contractors would be needed for felling, but a keen owner could carry out many of the lesser tasks himself. Certainly, one could cut all the firewood one needed from now until kingdom come.

I left with my mind in ferment. The place spoke to me powerfully - but what would I do if I bought it? Manage it, I supposed: enjoy seeing it improve. But live in it?

Well, I should love to imitate the American writer and mystic Henry David Thoreau, who in 1854 went to ground for two years in a cabin built by himself deep in the woods of Massachusetts.

I envy Thoreau his stamina and resourcefulness, and I treasure the picture of the simple life that he led in his classic Walden, hoeing his beans, quoting Virgil and Homer, curling up "snug as a meadow mouse" beneath the deep snows of winter, "no more lonely than a single mullein or dandelion in a pasture, or a bean-leaf, or sorrel, or a horse-fly, or a humble-bee".

Even if I did not live in the wood all the time, I could have a hut there, on the green swell beneath the oaks, and stay for a couple of nights as I went about my coppicing or thinning or clearing. In summer, I could bring to life Yeats's dream of living alone in a bee-loud glade. Working there among the trees, I would surely draw strength from nature, and from the earth.

It is vexatious to realise I will never do a Thoreau. I lack his moral courage. On the other hand - I tell myself - he knew nothing of electricity and all its comforts. By going to ground on the shore of Walden Pond, he did not deprive himself of radio, television, telephones or electric light, for none of these existed. Today the jolt of renouncing civilisation to become a true woodsman would be even greater.

In the middle my speculations there arrived a letter from Kevin, setting out the commercial considerations. On the credit side, sales of timber and woodland are now tax-free. Grants are available from the Government to help with management and replanting. In the long term, the financial return on capital would probably be much the same as if I left my money in stocks and shares.

Yet in my heart of hearts I suspect that if I do commit myself, it will not be for financial reasons. Rather, I will be simply buying myself an enormous present, a great, big, living toy.

Suggested Topics

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
peopleLynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance moves audience to tears
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon


Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Database Administrator

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: The role could involve w...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified secondary s...

Deputy Head of Science

£22000 - £36000 per annum + MPR / UPR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our cli...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London