Return to My Trees is a walking adventure through Wales exploring the fundamental question of how we make peace with and restore balance with nature. A big topic, admittedly!
I began my journey in Wentwood Forest in the southeast of Wales and headed west then north and finally east again until I reached the woodlands on the outskirts of Chirk Castle, on the famous Offa’s Dyke long distance walking path.
The book comprises 17 chapters and is divided into three parts. The first part is called The Fall of the Trees and follows my walk from Wentwood to the village of Brynamman in the western edges of the Brecon Beacons. It documents the history of people’s relationship to woodlands dating back to the Bronze age. It looks at deforestation but also the way countless communities through the centuries lived near and worked in the woods. This first part also tracks how people’s relationship to nature changed, starting with the Celtic Druids and including the Roman invasion, the Norman Conquest and the Agrarian and Industrial Revolutions.
The second part, The Power of the Trees, starts on the Black Mountain and follows my walk through the Cambrian Mountains to the seaside village of Borth. It explores the importance of the natural world in Welsh folklore, mythology, art and culture. As I walk I learn about the Physicians of Myddfai, the origins of the Mabinogian and how Wales inspired the Romantic and Picturesque movements of the late 18th century. It also traces the birth of nature tourism in Britain and how that inspired the modern environmental movement.
The third and final part of the book, The Rise of the Trees, follows my journey from the west coast of Ceredigion up through the historic town of Machynlleth into Coed y Brenin forest and then east through the slate mining centre of Ffestiniog and into the Dee Valley towards Llangollen and finally Chirk. In these chapters I consider the changes all of society must make in order to restore balance with nature and ensure own own survival and prosperity. I look at the implications for our legal and financial systems, for the role of business, for the future of farming and food and the role of cities.
My goal was to write a travel book that is a fun and easy read yet one that addresses issues that will shape all of our futures. In doing so I hope to introduce a wide audience to topics that, normally, might only grab the attention of environmental, economic, business and sustainability experts.
I’m no expert – but hopefully I can communicate the importance of restoring balance with nature in a way that resonates with us all.